Yearly Archives: 2011


2012 – Year of Crash and Opportunity

I predict a very substantial fall in UK house prices in 2012 – and that will be a very good thing.

Average house prices currently stand at over 6 times average earnings. That compares to a long term average since 1945 of under 4, which charts show to be the norm.

People simply cannot afford to buy homes at six times their earnings. People living on average earnings, and paying the high rents such high property prices entail, would take ten years to save one years earnings, which would give them a deposit. They then would need five times earnings (or two and half times joint earnings for a couple) in mortgage. It is with good reason that banks will not lend at that level – it is more than people can pay.

There is a fascinating graph in this BBC report of a National Housing Federation (NHF) study last summer. It shows that the number of households under 30 living in private rented accommodation increased astonishingly, from 30 per cent to 48 per cent, in the bubble years between 1997 and 2009. That is a massive gain to a landlord class apparently very rich in assets -but the value of whose assets is strangely inflated.

This leaves ordinary people stuck in a very unpleasant position. Until last year, I was forced to live in private rented accommodation. My annual rent was about 6% of the nominal property value. I now pay substantially less than that in mortgage interest.

The NHF study predicts that current trends will continue, that the private rented sector will continue to grow, and that house prices will grow 21% over the next five years. But the NHF, who commissioned the study, are providers of rented accommodation and as usual this “academic” study uses assumptions which promote the economic interests of those who funded it.

In fact, I expect the massive decoupling of house prices from average earnings will end in 2012 or 2013 and we will see a major crash in house prices. It may not begin in 2012 – possibly it can be delayed until 2013, but I predict that by 2015 we will see house prices to earnings ratios back to four per cent. And as I see no significant increase in average earnings over that period, that means a fall in nominal house prices of over 40%.

House prices currently bear no relation to the ability of people to buy them to live in. They are like a rock balanced on an apex, requiring only a little push to crash them down. A number of pushes are coming:

– Cuts in housing benefit. The whole rush to the private rented sector has been underpinned by artificially high rents forced up by government payment of housing benefit. I am of course extremely sorry that individuals may be hurt by the implementation of these cuts. I also expect some backtracking as it dawns on MPs that the £2,800 per month does not actually go into the pocket of the Daily Mail’s Sudanese refugee family, it goes into the fat pocket of some Tory landlord. But the housing benefit cuts will reduce returns to landlords and knock house prices.

– Unemployment. The main impact of public spending cuts is yet to feed through in terms of higher unemployment – you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tories like unemployment – it reduces the costs and leverage of labour. 2012 is the year that it will really hit. By the end of 2012, repossessions will be very high. This would always spark a drop in house prices; people have not yet got their heads round what a fall it will be this time.

– Interest Rates. The key factor in balancing that house price boulder has been the lack of any high wind of interest rates. The short term outlook is for base rates to remain real terms negative (which is undeniably true yet strangely almost never said). But that will not last forever either…

The coming crash in house prices is of course going to have a huge effect on the viability of the financial sector, and will join together with sovereign bond defaults in precipitating the fall of the casino capitalists who live on our labour and have the rest of us in their lockhold. Those who saw 2011 as a global year of revolutionary change were only witnessing a tremor before the eruption. I cannot be sure that the crash will come in 2012 rather than 2013 or 2014; but I am looking forward to the new year with genuine hope that a deal of stench will be cleansed.

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Evil Enlightenment

You were not expecting my thoughts on Michael Jackson and Beyonce Knowles.

This blog is effectively closed down during the period of yuletide festivity, during most of which I am happy to say the world gets subsumed in a warm glow of family, friends, goodwill and alcohol. The gears are grinding behind the surface and I have some explosive stuff on Adam Werritty for the New Year. But today I have escaped from the eight adults and five children watching Beyonce in the sitting room to pen some of the thoughts that it just aroused in me (actually most of the thoughts Beyonce arouses in me are best not written down, but that is another story).

For me the most interesting thing about the sorry Michael Jackson death trial was when Dr Conrad Murray announced that he had cleared out some “embarassing” creams from Jackson’s bedroom before the arrival of police. At first this sounded like it might relate to medication causing Jackson’s death; then it sounded like it might relate to Jackson’s sex life – anal lubricant? Then finally the information came out – they were skin lightening creams.

Which is what connects to Beyonce Knowles, who is beyond doubt many degrees lighter than she used to be, a fact which seems largely to escape comment. I know people in Ghana and in Nigeria who have really disfiguring marks – most commonly a series of ruched lines of skin on the body something like stretch marks – which will be with them for life, as a result of using skin lightening creams. In West Africa mercury is frequently a component.

One of my first rows with my employers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office happened in 1986 when I held the lowly position of Second Secretary (Commercial) in the British High Commission in Lagos. The sale of such creams in the UK had been very recently outlawed due to EU regulation, but it was at that time still legal to manufacture in the UK poisonous skin lightening products – including those containing mercury – for export outside the EU. I ejected from my office with little ceremony a gentleman from Birmingham wanting help from the High Commission in Lagos with his sales of mercury soaps. I recall having no sympathy at all from FCO colleagues over my stand. Why it took me twenty more years to realise I was in the wrong organisation is a tribute to my stupidity.

The pressure on black people to be as deracialised as Beyonce or Michael Jackson is a kind of racially aggravated version of the standards of physical appearance foisted on us every day by the advertising industry. It is the same process, operating in a different way, that gives us identikit politicians like Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Miliband, all striving to look like Pierce Brosnan, and devoid of deep political content.

My studies for Alexander Burnes have convinced me that the great incubus of colonial racialist baggage was largely an invention of the 1830’s onwards. Prior to that, the West largely judged people by religious affiliation before skin colour. There is no presumption in the writings of Mungo Park or Alexander Burnes of any intellectual superiority on their part on grounds of skin colour. The much underestimated presence of black people in the UK for centuries partly reflects the fact that they were viewed just as people. Of course this is broad brush, and the 18th century gentlemen with their picaresque coloured servants could have racist attitudes – and slave plantations. But it was not in general assumed that white meant superior in the way the racial construct arose during the mid-Victorian period.

It is also of course the case that prejudice in favour of the lighter skinned could be observed in Indian and African societies themselves as early as at least the seventeenth century, and that the relationship of those prejudices to lighter skinned governing elites or European contacts and mixed race people is a complex question.

But with all these caveats, it is still reasonable to assert that the mania among the fashionable young and black to have a lighter skin than God gave them is a reinforcement of the colonial and slave-owning prejudices of a couple of centuries.

I am as white as they come – almost blue like a good Scot. And pretty ugly. Colour has nothing to do with beauty.

It is illegal, but sales of skin lightening products in the UK are probably higher now that when they were still legal in the 1970’s. The real question is, what are we doing that makes people so unhappy with their own colour that they risk serious damage in this way?

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Merry Christmas to our Family

Having a wonderful family Christmas, and thinking of our community of blog commenters, hoping that nobody is lonely today.

As regular readers know, my favourite carol is “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”. Search for the lyrics and you will find that this verse is routinely censored out (missing from 8 of the first 10 versions on a google.com search for “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear Lyrics”):

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

Cemeron wants us to adopt Christian values. Not bombing people would be a good start in the New Year.

Love to all.

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Free Speech for the Unlovely

I always seem to get back from Africa physically exhausted. I now have to tackle all the organisation of a family Christmas at the last minute. It is both the charm and disadvantage of this blog that the blogging is just me – it has no staff, and no revenue. That is not to devalue the contibution of the volunteer comment moderators – who help out with other things too – and the technical help from Tim, Clive and Richard and the the hosting team. But if I am not writing, nothing happens.

When I am lacking time or energy for deeper thinking, I tend to throw out some provocative thoughts from the top of my mind to see what people make of them. I am worrying today about the attacks on people of whom I disapprove.

I blogged recently about excessive police action against a blogger who argues against the existence of man-made climate change. I think he is wrong, but I don’t see why he should be the victim of police raids. I am going to surprise you by saying that I think that the hounding of Aidan Burley is going too far. Bad taste humour around the Nazis has existed throughout my lifetime – and was brought gloriously to the screen in the brilliant Mel Brooks’ The Producers (the first one, with the fantastic Zero Mostel).

Burley’s stag party seems rather a throwback to the Federation of Conservative Students of the late 70s, important elements of which delighted in singing Nazi songs to emphasise how right wing and taboo-free they were, with an element of self-parody (I speak as an eye-witness). You always worried there were genuine Third Reich sympathies in there – as of course there were so strongly in the British elite in the 1930s. That is the underlying worry in the Burley case – but if there were any evidence of real sympathy for Nazi views from Burley, it would have been dug up by now. I think we should just take this as bad taste humour a la Producers – a play which presumably cannot be produced under French law? Burley has been punished, revealed as a twit, and we should move on.

John Terry is a man whose TV persona and reported behaviour I have always found repulsive. I don’t know what he (or Suarez in a related case) actually said. I find racial abuse absolutely unacceptable. But again, I do not think that where it occurs between two individuals, and unless it is persistent and repeated over a period, it is a matter for the state and police. Not all bad behaviour should be a matter of higher intervention, and shaming can be a good sanction in itself. Both individuals and society have ways to sort things out without always involving the state or constituted organisations within it. I doubt Terry will do it again and it has been made plain that this is unacceptable behaviour in football. It is enough.

The same goes for Jeremy Clarkson. Again, total wanker. But nobody could have seen his TV appearance on the One Show and felt that he actually believed or advocated that strikers should be shot. His body language and tone of voice made it plain he was indulging in hyperbole with the object of being humorous. Exaggerated polemic should not be banned, or even censured. The real problem here is balance. Very right wing polemicists are very often allowed free rein to mouth off on broadcast media. On TV, opposing polemicists (like, err, me) are strictly banned. On radio, George Galloway on Talk Sport is pretty well a lone example. Personally I welcome the vigour of Clarkson’s expression – if only someone equally firm were allowed on to argue with him.

Finally, I am going to defend Herman Cain. No longer a candidate, and his tax and other policies were completely barking mad, therefore pretty mainstream Republican. But I saw very little wrong in anything he was alleged to have done in his love life. One woman alleged that he made a physical advance – put his hand on her leg – towards her in his car, after a dinner where she had asked him for help. It seems to me his behaviour was perfectly normal, and the important thing is she asked him to stop, and he did stop. If men were not allowed to make such advances, the human race would die out. Desisting once it is plain your advances are unwelcome is the important thing. The long term affair alleged was entirely mutual and consenting. Chatting up employees is tasteless, but ought not be a crime.

Burley, Terry, Clarkson and Cain are all people of whom, in different ways, I do not approve and with whose views on life I am heartily at odds. But I don’t hold the view that only people who hold certain approved views should be able to wander round and function, or that we should all be limited to certain highly constrained social behaviours. They are all, in various ways, victims of galloping political correctness. I thought I would express some sympathy for them. Human beings have a right to be wrong, and sometimes foolish. It is part of the human condition.

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Rent Culture

Ghana in general is a well balanced society with a good education system and a large middle class. But there is a huge social problem affecting those at the bottom of the ladder, which there appears no will at all among the political class even to acknowledge, let alone tackle, and that is rent.

Ghana’s agricultural production has never collapsed, unlike Nigeria, and the traditional patterns of society in rural areas have not broken down. Modern services, in terms of edication, electrification and clean water, have penetrated rural communities better than in any other African country, though there are still areas of concern, particularly in the North. But the overall good picture means that there has therefore been less extreme urban drift, less shanty town existence, than in most of the developing world, and therefore less urban violence.

But despite all this there is a terrible problem with the rent culture of Accra. The poor all rent housing, rather than own. Demand exceeds supply and landlords invariably demand three, or at the very least two, years’ rent in advance. This is absolutely established as the way the market operates, and for the poor there is no way around it. Three years’ rent is typically over one year’s income, and in consequence the poor are sucked into a permanent life of debt. This applies to the majority of people living in the City. Quite literally, a day never passes in which at least one Ghanaian doesn’t ask me to lend them the money for their rent; yesterday there were four. I help where I can.

This situation was already calamitous but is going to get much worse, as land values are already starting to soar with the coming of the oil industry. I have good friends at the highest levels in all the Ghanaian political parties, but they all seem to have been so indoctrinated with IMF economics that they do not even consider rent controls. Unfortunately the performance of both the NPP and the NDC in building social housing has been very poor. I am forced to the opinion that the plight of the poor is not actually a pressing concern in the minds of the educated classes in Ghana in general.

The fierce party political divisions in Ghana need to be put aside, and an all-party solution on social housing and on rents has to be pursued with vigour, as a primary use for some of Ghana’s oil revenues.

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Military Rule

I have been against the hosting of the Olympics since the inception. It seemed a vainglorious waste of money, to enable politicians to wave the patriotic flag, even before they gave away all our money to the bankers. Now it is just crazy.

It is also scarey. It has been announced that 13,000 military personnel will be policing the event together with 8,000 private contractors and 12,000 police. There will be battleships on the Thames. Euronews has just quoted a British official as defending this as being in line with what was done in Beijing. But Beijing is not in a democracy. It also claims that London in 2012 will be the “safest place in the world”.

That is “safe” in the same way that Jean Charles De Menezes was safe with all those armed police around.

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Christopher Hitchens RIP

UPDATE In response to the outraged, my position is simple. The Iraq War killed hundreds of thousands and maimed millions. Dead or wounded included over a million children. Those who planned the Iraq war, including those who used media positions to propagandise for it, have lost entitlement to the signs of society’s respect.

The world will undoubtedly be a duller place without Christopher Hitchens. Oh, and a better one too.

British journalism is full of people of the same generationwho have lurched from the Trotskyist far left to a crazed neo-con agenda with no intervening period of sanity. I suspect the available riches for zionist propagandists are a major factor. Hitchens, Aaronovitch, Phillips, Cohen. You can probably think of others. A strange and extremely unpleasant manifestation of intellectual prostitution.

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Thinking of Bradley Manning

My thoughts today are with Bradley Manning, on trial in the USA. He has been subject to solitary confinement, abuse and humiliation, with the sexual humiliation overtones (being kept naked) which seem to permeate US military culture in so many ways.

The BBC is a disgrace. The reporter on BBC World just questioned “Whether Julian Assange manipulated and controlled an impressionable young man?” There has been absolutely zero direct evidence produced of any meeting or communication between Assange and Manning. There is the hearsay word of a hacker informant, whom someone should point towards a potter’s field. Both Assange and Manning deny any communication – a fact the BBC did not consider worth reporting.

The relationship between Adam Werritty and Matthew Gould was key to the events which led to the resignation of Britain’s defence minister. There is a great deal more evidence for the Gould-Werritty relationship than for the Assange-Manning relationship, yet the BBC refused to carry a single word on Gould-Werritty telling me it was “speculative”. The neo-con agenda at the BBC is something they no longer seek to disguise.

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Police Abuse in Norfolk

I am very worried by the report of a heavy handed police raid on Tallbloke, a blogger in Norfolk. According to this account, he was raided due to a link to leaked documents posted in a comments thread. We have become far too blase about the rapid erosion of civil liberties in this country. Norfolk is not devoid of serious crimes which these six detectives should be better employed in investigating.

I had not heard of Tallbloke and know nothing beyond the report to which I have linked. His blog discusses climate change at scientific levels well above my understanding, but scarcely seems a subject for the police. I do not share Tallboy’s views – in particular, I think man-made climate change is a fact we are not tackling with nearly sufficient seriousness. But whether or not I agree is irrelevant. What is important is the free speech issue. It is astonishing our media are criticising government handling of protest in Russia, when we have police raidng dissident bloggers in Norfolk which goes unnoticed.

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Iraq Disaster

Not even in Ghana can you escape the US propaganda surrounding the final pull-out of troops (but not oil companies) from Iraq. They leave Iraq “sovereign and free”, a variety of thuggish looking and dull Americans have just told us.

But being in Ghana I probably see rather more balance on TV than I would in the UK. For example, while there is still no official body count from the war, there is an official count of those wounded. The Iraqi Ministry of Health states, officially, that over 3 million were maimed.

Even though the Iraqi healthcare system was damaged by a decade of sanctions before the invastion, on the eve of the attack there were still over twice as many functioning healthcare clinics and hospitals as there are today, and nearly five times as many doctors working in them.

You won’t see that on BBC or Sky.

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The Secret Foreign Policy

Adam Werritty has given an interview to the Spectator. I cannot find the original online, but there is a BBC report of it here.

It appears an exercise in misdirection. Sri Lanka is mentioned but never Israel. He denies having ever claimed to have any expertise in defence, despite the fact that “a certain expertise” was precisely Gus O’Donnell’s justification for his presence at the Ministry of Defence briefing meeting for Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel.

Werritty asks “What had this ‘villainous’ Adam Werritty actually done?”, while being interviewed by a friendly neo-con rag. It is of course the journalist that should be asking that question, and Werritty has shunned everyone who might seriously ask about it. Meanwhile the parliamentary Table Office refuses to accept MPs’ questions about Werritty’s meetings with Gould, and the FCO refuses Freedom of Information requests for the correspondence between them.

I have not seen anybody deny that Gus O’Donnell’s report omitted a minimum of five Fox-Gould-Werritty meetings. The government refuses to answer questions and refuse to release the correspondence. But they have at no stage denied the allegations published here, around the web, and in the Independent on Sunday.

At the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, extreme zionist Conservative MP Robert Halfon attempted to defend Gus O’Donnell from accusations that he covered up a secret government policy with Israel over Iran, in which Werritty was involved. Halfon is the former paid Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. His defence of O’Donnell – and Fox-Werritty – is extremely revealing.

Q381 Robert Halfon: Is it not for the Prime Minister to decide whether a Minister has broken collective responsibility, rather than yourself?
Sir Gus O’Donnell: Yes, absolutely. On this whole issue of violations of the code, I was just providing advice for the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who decides.
Q382 Robert Halfon: So whether or not there was a separate policy is nothing to do with you; it is to do with the Prime Minister making a decision on whether or not a Minister broke the ministerial code.
Sir Gus O’Donnell: Yes.

I have no doubt that there is a “separate policy” on Israel and Iran, different to that acknowledged in public. I have no doubt that the Fox/Gould/Werritty meetings – and the blanket cover-up of them from scrutiny in parliament, documents or the media – afford a key way into it.

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Mary Poppins and Newt Gingrich

Being in Africa appears to make me more whimsical that when I am in my book-lined study at home. One of the joys of having small children is that you can get to do childish things, with an excuse. I took Cameron to the Hornby model centre in Broadstairs a few weeks ago. I never tire of watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And recently I re-watched Mary Poppins. I never much liked this, and still am not a great fan, but I had never before realised that the entire thing is an attack on materialism and the banks, particularly the City of London.

There is a moment when Banks finally rebels and turns on the big banker and says: “It turns out, with due respect, when all is said and done, that there’s no such thing as you!” The world of bankers has become even more of a fantasy since, of meaningless “wealth” unrelated to production, and casino speculation.

But the phrase sent my mind flitting to Newt Gingrich. The Palestinians are very real indeed – I used to have a Palestinian girlfriend, and she definitely existed. Palestine is mentioned in Herodotus, and if the bible bashing Gingrich can’t see that “Palestine” and “Philistine” are the same word, he is a greater fool than I supposed. Or does he believe in etymological creationism, that all words were formed by God on the same day in precisely their current form?

The misery of the Palestinian people, squeezed into ever shrinking bantustans, is very very real. What Gingrich is doing is indicating his acquiescence in the genocidal policy of Israel towards the Palestinians. Given what is already happening, it is not a great leap from declaring someone does not exist, to seeking to make that a reality.

Gingrich appears an evil, corrupt, debased manifestation of the real agenda of the United States. He is the picture in America’s attic, with all its evil shown up-front. The man is a walking caricature of seething hatreds. Surely it is Newt Gingrich who does not really exist?

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David Steel – An Apology

This blog has received many scores of lawyers’ letters over the years and given every single one a rude reply. For the first time I am offering an apology.

David Steel says that he was only a director of Heritage Oil and Gas for two years, many years ago, and that he resigned as soon as he became aware of the associations of Heritage and Tony Buckingham with Sandline and Executive Outcomes. I accept that David Steel never had any association with Sandline and Executive Outcomes, and that my accusations of hypocrisy were unwarranted. So were claims on his property dealings and values. I am meeting his legal costs.

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Home Thoughts

I am off to Ghana today, and it leads me to think about how very much I have come to love Ramsgate. Walks along the cliffs and beach and across Pegwell Bay with my family are a major part of my life. The sea has always been important to reviving my spirits. Ramsgate’s magnificent Edwardian esplanades stretch for miles, and the Ramsgate Society is now putting a commendable effort into their restoration. Ramsgate has almost entirely ceased to be a seaside holiday destination and I really do not quite understand why.

All these pictures are of places within an easy 15 minute walk of my house:

The depressingly ugly Turner Modern at Margate continues to attract the visitors, 99.99% of whom are blissfully ignorant of far greater art – and infinitely greater architecture – just down the road:

The lack of public interest in St Augustine’s and its highly limited opening hours (Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons only, from memory) appear to be a vicious circle.

Pegwell Bay still looks precisely as it did when Dyce painted it:

Right on the street where I live we have a particularly good ghost story:

All this just one hour and ten minutes from St Pancras. Unfortunately Ramsgate town centre has suffered disastrously from the decision to build a huge out of town shopping centre at Westwood Cross, but is showing some first signs of revival.

Want another reason to hate the big supermarkets? They are building a new Asda at the top of the High Street, and a fortnight ago the builders cut through a main sewer, flooding several houses including the local vet, where a number of recuperating animals in cages were drowned.

Here is a picture of a jumbo coming in to land over Ramsgate, taken from the Open at Sandwich. You can see my house in this photo:

I am baffled by the scheme to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, when just down the road at Manston, and already right on Britain’s first HS1 High Speed Rail route, you have the second longest, now civil, runway in the UK, fully operational but working at 1% capacity. Manston can take the A380 without modification. I have seen proximity to Schiphol given as the reason Manston cannot be used, but it is further from Schiphol than Heathrow is from Gatwick.

Anyway, time to pack…

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The Gould Werritty Investigation Continues

An MP has been refused by the Commons Table Office when they tried to table a question asking how many meetings Gould had held with Werritty and/or Fox. The Table Office say the question has already been answered – even though we know for certain that the answer given was untrue.

This was the untrue – or at the very least radically unfull – answer cited by the Table Office:

Adam Werritty
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings HM ambassador to Israel has had with the Secretary of State for Defence (a) in Israel, (b) in the UK and (c)
31 Oct 2011 : Column 374W
elsewhere since May 2010; whether Mr Adam Werritty was present on any such occasion; and which (i) other officials and (ii) other people were present on each occasion. [76970]
Alistair Burt: All meetings which our ambassador to Israel has had with the former Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) since May 2010 are set out in the Cabinet Secretary’s report of 18 October 2011. Our ambassador to Israel was also invited by the former Defence Secretary to a private social engagement in summer 2010 at which Adam Werritty was present.

It is remarkable rule of parliament that apparently once a minister lies about something, parliamentarians are never allowed to ask about it again.

Meantime I have submitted a Freedom of Information request about a Freedom of Information request! I have asked for any notes, minutes, emails or correspondence relating to the handling of my FOI request for the Gould-Werritty correspondence. You may recall that my request was declined on grounds of cost, and dealt with in the remarkable time of just 76 minutes, the answer ebing received at 11.31 pm!

Finally the editor of the Jewish Chronicle has declined to publish the following article, which I submitted to him as a comment piece covering the JC’s promotion of the charges of anti-semitism against Paul Flynn for pursuing the Gould/Werritty issue. This is a shame, because the JC used to give space to liberal views, and because I believe a serious percentage of their readership would have been interested in the other side of the story.

There is a genuine argument that it was not wise to appoint Matthew Gould as Ambassador to Israel, and the accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at MP Paul Flynn MP by Dennis McShane, and reported by Martin Bright in the JC, do not address that argument.

Of course being Jewish does not in any way disqualify Matthew Gould from being a British ambassador. We are fortunate in the UK to have many brilliant Jewish diplomats. Jon Benjamin in Santiago is an example of an absolutely first rate ambassador with whom I was once privileged to work.

But Israel/Palestine remains, beyond dispute, a scene of unresolved conflict. The Israeli government, for example, recognises that conflict by invoking the San Remo Agreement to justify its naval embargo of Gaza. The San Remo agreement only applies in times of armed conflict. The dispute is also witnessed not just by events on the ground, but in diplomatic terms by the whole paraphernalia of Middle East peace negotiation, including the post of Quartet envoy occupied by Tony Blair.

So the situation surrounding Israel is not normal and involves conflict. That is, of course, by no means unique. Nearby Cyprus is subject to a dispute that has many parallels. I was Head of the FCO Cyprus section for three years, and tried hard but failed to make progress in resolving the “Cyprus question”. Winning trust was extremely difficult; it would have been well nigh impossible had I been ethnically Greek or Turkish. For the Head of the FCO Cyprus section, or for our Ambassador in Nicosia, to be ethnically Greek, Turkish or either shade of Cypriot just would not be practically useful. I hope nobody will accuse me of being anti-Greek or anti-Turk for saying so.

Similarly, it is just not helpful to have an Ambassador in Tel-Aviv who is Jewish or Palestinian. It just isn’t practically wise. This is not a matter of high policy. There may be Jews or Palestinians of such exceptional personal qualities they could rise above any suspicion of partisanship and be effective. But Matthew Gould has proven himself not to be that talented.

Matthew’s frequent declarations to the Israeli media of his personal commitment to zionism are neither helpful nor necessary for a diplomat. Take for example this from the Jerusalem Post of 29 May:

“British Ambassador Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the principles of Zionism on Thursday”
That really is a very peculiar thing for a diplomat, who is supposed to have just the one national commitment, to say. I was dismissed as an Ambassador – by FCO ministers including Dennis McShane – for too strong a personal commitment to human rights. A personal commitment to zionism is by comparison a good thing, apparently.

We also cannot pretend that in 2011 to declare oneself a “zionist” in political terms merely has its 19th century meaning of somebody who believes in the existence of a state of Israel. The readership of the JC knows that the term “zionist” has accrued baggage of support for settlements and a greater Israel, for the annexation of the whole of Jerusalem, and of links with the non-Jewish foreign policy neo-Cons both sides of the Atlantic. who also declare themselves ardent zionists at every opportunity.

It is also worth noting that, of the entertained guests who have passed into Gould’s Tel Aviv residence, a disgruntled British Embassy source tells me that well less than 5% of invites have been to Israeli Arabs who constitute 20% of the population.

Finally, we have to consider the extraordinary relationship of Gould with Adam Fox and Liam Werritty. It has been shown that the trio met at least seven times, including several meetings before the election, according to Gus O’Donnell’s replies to Paul Flynn at the Public Administration Committee. The FCO refuses point-blank to say how many times Gould met Werritty without Fox, and refused within the hour (at nearly midnight!) my emailed Freedom of Information request for the Gould/Werritty correspondence.

No other official was ever present at any of the Fox-Gould-Werritty meetings – one of many strange facts about them. Gus O’Donnell’s report mentions only two of what we now know was a much larger series of meetings. We really need to know what Gould, the “committed zionist”, was doing with the two extreme Atlanticist neo-cons – and why the government is so anxious to hide it..

That is a genuine question, and to scream “anti-semite” at anyone who asks it devalues the term.

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Ten Per Cent for Freedom

From now until the referendum, I shall give ten per cent of my income to the campaign for Scottish Independence. My income is both meagre and unreliable, and I can’t really afford it, but people have died for freedom willingly, and this is a much smaller sacrifice by comparison.

I urge all my fellow Scots to do the same. The media is viciously anti-independence and the massive resources of the British establishment are going to be concentrated fully against us. This is our first chance for national self-determination since 1707, and if we are not to be “Bought and sold for English gold” again, we need to raise some of our own.

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Update – Cameron’s Patriotism

UPDATE

Exactly as predicted, the broadcast media this morning are hailing Cameron’s patriotism in opposing a financial transaction tax and “Protecting the City of London”, as though this were the Blitz.

Both the BBC and Sky News have featured economists “explaining” what a bad thing a financial transaction tax would be for the City of London. Both were employed by institutions which would have to pay the tax – a fact which was not pointed out.

Despite the fact that a large majority of academic economists, the European Commission, 23 European governmnets, the Obama administration, and Vince Cable before he got his ministerial chauffeur, all believe that a transaction tax is an essential step towards preventing the banking speculation that caused this whole mess, the media are not presenting anyone who believes in the transaction tax.

No, the media narrative is simple. It’s fighting off the Johnny foreigner, Batting for Britain.

What a load of crap.

End of update: here is yesterday’s piece:

The xenophobic yaah-booing of the Tories over the demand for Cameron to show the “Bulldog spirit” is Europe is quite sickening. It is astonishing that the broadcast media have universally bought in to the spin that Cameron is “Defending Britain” by opposing the banking transaction tax, that all other major European powers want.

Cameron is not defending Britain. He is defending his banking paymasters. A transaction tax is essential to discourage multiple speculative transactions and other banking practices which have shown they can wreck entire national economies. Cameron’s opposition to the transaction tax should be vilified as reckless and a blatant pursuit of class interest, not universally lauded as “patriotic”.

Our schadenfreude at Germany’s difficulties is misplaced. Germany remains a much better economy than the UK. They manufacture a great deal more and thus have a much better balanced economy. Despite having swallowed East Germany, German GDP per capita is once again higher than that of the UK, by about 3%.

Crucially, as shown in the recent OECD report, income in Germany is much more fairly distributed than in the UK. The UK in fact is twice as unequal. In the UK the top ten per cent of the population have an average income that is twelve times that of the bottom ten per cent. The same figure for Germany is six times. What is more, inequality in Germany has been falling for the last six years, whereas in the UK it is accelerating.

Yet the German economy has outgrown the UK economy in the same period. That is impossible, according to every TV pundit I have seen in the last month. “It is massive reward for thrusting executives that encourages them to put the dynamic effort in, that leads to economic growth and drags the low paid mere mortals along behind them. If the gap between rich and poor is not colossal and widening, the economy cannot perform as well. Otherwise these vital high earners will desert us and move to Singapore.”

The mantra that economic growth must entail a widening wealth gap is scarcely challenged in the mainstream media narrative. But it is plainly untrue. In Germany in 1990 the top 1% of income “earners” received a staggering 11.1% of total national incomes. By 2007 that figure was – still 11.1%. By contrast in the UK in 1990 the top 1% took 9.9% of national income. By 2007 that figure had shot up to 14.2%. And all the indications are that in the last four years it has accelerated still faster, almost certainly now over 16%.

So if those braying conservatives are right about what makes economies grow, our economy should be streaking ahead of Germany. But it isn’t, quite the opposite. Meanwhile the “right wing” Merkel has overseen a greater drop in inequality than Britain has seen in two generations.

A period of humility from Britain is called for. Those braying Tory MPs are fools.

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Independent Coup

I don’t buy newspapers any more, but I strongly recommend that today everyone puts their hand in their pocket to support the Independent’s tremendous work exposing the immoral – no, evil – work of political lobbyists and the way our politicians are bought and paid for.

You can work your way through all the articles online beginning with this one, where I get a kind mention. This all follows on beautifully – and genuinely by coincidence – from my blog post of yesterday,

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In Bed With Lola and Gulnara

The Afghanistan conference in Bonn is a farce. There are no representatives of the Afghan resistance to the occupation, so it is not negotiating peace. Karzai’s corrupt and effete presidency, obtained by massive electoral fraud, expires in 2014. It is no coincidence that immediately after that the NATO troops will leave. Be guaranteed that none of the Karzai family will remain in Afghanistan, but will rather retire to Switzerland with the many billions of dollars they have looted from UK and US taxpayers’ funds, and made from the heroin trade.

Pakistan of course is not present at the conference. After approximately 6,000 Pakistanis were blown up by the USA on Pakistani soil, the next 25 were killed all at once and were all young soldiers, something that not even Pakistan’s complacent, corrupt government could gloss over. So for now all of NATO’s ground supplies are being shipped through Uzbekistan – the percentage of NATO supplies going that way was already increased to almost 50% and still rising fast as a matter of policy,

Lucky that Hillary has a new best friend in President Karimov

All of which explains why there has been not one single word of criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights record by the co-alition government in the UK. There was not one single mention of human rights, of child slave labour, of political prisoners, of free elections, unbanning the opposition, of freedom of assembly, speech or religious belief, when the British government hosted official Uzbek parliamentary and trade delegations last month. There was not one word either in public or in private on any of these subjects.

The current British government loves Karimov. It has never issued even the mildest criticism. Boiling people alive and torturing political opponents to death is fine by them. We even deport him back extra dissidents to practice on. This British government succesfully pushed through the EU new preferential tariff access for Uzbek cotton picked by eight year old child slaves.
The love affair with the British establishment goes wider than just this government. New Labour’s chief financier, their own Lord Ashcroft, is a man named Andrew Rosenfeld. He has sold a house in Switzerland to Karimov’s daughter Lola for three times its market value. Such huge payments in excess of market value are, very often, a spot of money laundering with the extra money being in return for something else.

Money flows both way – as previously reported here, Karimov’s elder daughter Gulnara is getting a massive cut from the transport of all those NATO supplies through Uzbekistan.

But the latest bit of love-in with the Karimov family will astound you. William Hague is going to agree that Gulnara Karimova – the most hated person in Uzbekistan – can come and live in London as Uzbek Ambassador. The request for her to be accepted (“agrement” in diplomatic parlance, in French) – has been in for some time. The only obstacle remaining is to resolve how many of Gulnara’s seven bodyguards will be allowed to carry semi-automatic weapons on the streets of London.

Among our major political parties, the notion of morality appears virtually as dead as it is to the Karimov family.

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