Monthly Archives: May 2014


Freedom Cheaper than Iraq War

A particularly mendacious lie by Danny Alexander puts the institutional start-up costs of Scottish Independence at £1.5 billion.  That is a cool half billion pounds cheaper than Scotland’s share of the costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars, even on the Westminster government’s blatant under-estimate of the war costs.

So Scotland can afford criminal invasions killing hundreds of thousands to ‘bring freedom’, but cannot afford the smaller cost of its own freedom!!!

The £1.5 billion estimate is mendacious in two ways.  Firstly, it is a simple recycling of a Canadian lie at the time of the Quebec independence referendum, apportioning with no argument 1% of GDP to startup costs.

Secondly, as nearly all the money will be spent in Scotland it is not a loss at all, but actually an increase to GDP, as any but the most nutty neo-con would be forced to acknowledge.  And it would be the precursor of government money spent annually in Scotland rather than England for ever thereafter.

Thankfully Alexander won’t have a job much longer – and if he thinks a penny of Scottish public spending is going in future to support his huge arse and deceitful mouth, he is very wrong.

 

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Euro Values

Brian Taylor of BBC Scotland said last night he picked up at Holyrood that the other unionist parties were pleased that UKIP had won the former Lib Dem seat in Scotland and stopped the SNP getting a third.  That was the most revealing moment of last night for me – it showed the vicious irresponsibility of the Better Together campaign, and exposed the lie that UKIP are outsiders.

The other moment worth watching was Alex Salmond confronting Dimbleby that the BBC had given UKIP four times as much coverage time in Scotland during the campaign as the SNP.  Dimbleby tamely responded that his complaint should be directed to BBC Scotland.  The BBC’s promotion of UKIP again explodes the myth of UKIP as outsiders.

The Unionist camp’s pathetic attempt to claim that UKIP’s 10% and fourth place in Scotland, squeaking one seat, shows Scotland is the same politically as England where UKIP got 29% and came first, is desperate politics.  That in order to make that point they were happy for a racist party to marginally represent Scotland in Europe, is a sign of the total moral bankruptcy of the Better Together neo-con British Nationalist programme.

New Labour are completely screwed.  To only beat the Tories by 1%, when there is a huge UKIP voteof which a significant slice will go back to the Tories, shows there is no chance whatsoever that New Labour will win the UK general election.

The people of Scotland have a very simple choice in September.  Independence, or another Tory government which will probably pull the UK out of the EU, and might very well be in coalition with UKIP.

New Labour won almost nowhere except London.  It is the party of London., with a leader who has never in his life lived outside London.  But it is a fascinating fact that of all the class, educational, geographical and other statistics you can correlate with New Labour success, the factor with the strongest correlation of all with the New Labour share of the vote is the prevalence of postal voting.  New Labour can win only where the system is open widest to abuse through massive scale electoral fraud.

Some of this is straight fraud – postal ballots being given to ghost voters, non-existent people on the register.  That is very much more prevalent than you probably imagine.  But mostly it operates through the deprivation of the privacy of the polling booth.  In a polling station nobody is supposed to be allowed to look over your shoulder (although there were disgraceful scenes in places in Tower Hamlets, Wood Green and Newham).  But if you receive your ballot paper in your home, you are extremely vulnerable if you live in a situation where others are able to enter your home and demand to check that you have voted the right way before you post your ballot.  That is beyond doubt the situation both of many family members, particularly affecting women, and of certain highly hierarchical and patriarchal communities.  Postal ballot distortion is an absolutely disgraceful blot on British political culture.  It is also fundamental to New Labour’s ability to salvage something from a disastrous electoral performance.

There is indeed a very nasty undercurrent of racism in England at the moment.  I live in one of UKIP’s strongest areas and this racism cannot be wished away.  In fact I do not believe that Farage is personally racist, and I believe he is genuine not tactical in his abhorrence of the French National Front.  But I do believe Farage has pandered to and encouraged people who are racists, and that there are a great many racists within UKIP.  These people must not be allowed to become a ‘respectable’ part of politics and must be confronted wherever they appear.

I have argued for years that the UK is not a democracy in that no real choice is offered between the main political parties.  Their policies are all the same.  If the range of possible policies on any one issue were enumerated from 1 to 100, New Labour, Lib Dem and Tories offer you choices in the range 81 to 86. The electorate has noticed, and people are sick of it.  People have noticed all over Europe too.  The politics of neo-con consensus and its lackey media is happily dead.  This is a change that will not stop.  Once we imprison enough neo-cons who ripped off the public and the taxpayer, perhaps they might concede that it turns out history had not ended after all.

It is true that UKIP’s support does represent an upsurge of dissatisfaction with the political elite, and that also is part of an unarticulated rage at the astonishing growth of inequality of wealth in society and the vast shift of resources to the billionaire middlemen in the financial sector who do extremely little for it.  It is good that rage is building, and Syriza show in Greece that it can be constructively channelled.  But it is much more often and with much more success diverted in order to awake volcanoes of atavism, and rage that should be directed at plutocrats is instead turned on foreigners.  The danger is letting that analysis divert you from the fact of how very, very real and very, very nasty that atavism is in the dispossessed classes.  We are in a dangerous place.  The neo-con establishment is fanning racist flames.

At school, we were taught about the years of revolution in Europe of 1830-32 and 1848-9.  Those revolutionary years coincided with Asian Cholera pandemics, which undoubtedly played a part in driving people beyond endurance.  You can of course argue that poverty and famine assisted the spread of the pandemics.

This current year of European change has also been sparked by economic distress, and seen an increase in poverty marker diseases, some of which we had hoped had effectively vanished. But plague has been a cause.  Europe has suffered the most devastating plague of bankers in history.

The disillusioned should not blame immigrants.  Immigrants are victims too.  Turn your wrath on the bankers, the billionaires and the neo-con parties who do their bidding.  Another world is possible.

Let’s start by ending the UK and setting Scotland free.  It is not illegitimate to judge an idea in part by the quality and motives of those who oppose it.  The full range of the neo-con establishment prefer racist isolation for a neo-con UK to a free Scotland.  Just look at them.  Then kick them where it really hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

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Buggering the Valet

The row over Prince Charles in Canada reminded me of the role of the Royal Family in personifying those timeless traditions which comprise the spine of British culture.  One of these great Royal traditions, which has continued right down to the present generations, is buggering the valet.

31 May should be a national holiday in celebration of this great tradition. We should call it Bugger the Valet day.  On 31 May 1810 Ernest Duke of Cumberland, fifth son of George III, was buggering his valet Neale.   While Cumberland was fully engaged, another servant named Sellis impertinently entered the room.  Naturally the Duke, having ordered Sellis to wait and be spoken to, took out his sword and ran Sellis through seven times. Sellis remained impertinent, and even after being stabbed the first time, had the temerity to grab a candlestick and hit the Duke hard on the face, inflicting a disfiguring wound.  This of course is described in official histories (and I see on Wikipedia) as having been received in the Napoleonic Wars.

Over the years, seven journalists were imprisoned for publishing an account of Sellis’ death.  The Duke failed to pay Neale the money he had promised him to lie that Sellis had attacked the Duke, and subsequently Neale talked rather a lot.  The first journalist imprisoned, Henry White, died of disease contracted in prison. Henry White deserves to be remembered.

Cumberland was to marry a woman very widely believed across the German speaking world to be herself a murderess, Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg Strelitz, whose two earlier husbands had died, the second particularly unexpectedly and conveniently.

During the reign of King William IV, Cumberland was second in line to the throne after Victoria.  Victoria’s widowed mother, the Duchess of Kent, was shagging her Private Secretary, Sir John Conroy.  Actually every summer in Victoria’s teens they did their shagging in Townley House, which I can see now from my study window.

Ten months of the year they lived in Kensington Palace, and Conroy put Victoria into seclusion.  Conroy was hated – he was far too middle class to be shagging a Duchess.  There was a successful film by that awful far right “Lord” Julian Fellowes a few years ago called The Young Victoria.  Conroy was portrayed as a caricature villain, and conventional historians have accepted the monarchist line that his seclusion of Victoria was to maximize his own influence of control.

What Conroy himself said, and is almost never published, was that he was keeping Victoria under very close guard because he was terrified she would be poisoned or otherwise murdered by the heir to the throne, her uncle Cumberland, and his wife. Where this is ever mentioned by historians, it is to ridicule it as a crazy pretext.

In fact Cumberland was a murderer,  and Frederica very probably was too.  Conroy was absolutely right to protect Victoria from Cumberland.  What the establishment would not admit then or now was that there was a very real reason for Conroy to apprehend this danger.   Ernest Duke of Cumberland had killed Sellis.  His wife Frederica was reputed throughout Europe to have poisoned her second husband in order to marry Ernest and gain the possibility of becoming Queen of England.  Only Victoria stood between them and the throne, in an age of high mortality.

When William IV died, Victoria became Queen but as a female could not inherit the other Kingdom of Hanover.  Cumberland therefore became King Ernest of Hanover.  He abolished parliament and persecuted those regarded as liberal, including the Brothers Grimm who he dismissed from their University posts.

Ahh, our beloved Royal family! Remember – 31 May is Bugger the Valet Day.

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Mind-Boggling

When I watch the news I flick from channel to channel.  At the moment, if you asked me which channel comes closest to an ideal of good quality and unbiased journalism, I would probably say none, but the best is France24.  It is always fascinating to compare and contrast all the different viewpoints and techniques of news management.

I normally hover very briefly on Fox.  But just now Fox were running an item on a New York bar that has banned weapons – which the Fox commentators thought outrageous.  First they opined gleefully that the bar would get shot up in consequence.  Then one of them said “Most mass shootings actually occur in weapons free zones like schools.” They all happily concurred that schools would be safer if firearms were allowed in.

 

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BBC New Labour Orgasm

The BBC is totally out of control. At 16.15, the BBC were reporting Labour net gains of 240 seats out of 3,032 declared. At 15.18 Sky were showing just 171 Labour gains out of a total of 6,137 seats declared.

The BBC are way behind in their totalizing, and cherry picking the Labour gains. The BBC have consistently been showing about 7% of all seats contested as Labour gains. Sky consistently shows under 3% of all seats contested as Labor gains.

This cannot be accidental – it has been a consistent pattern for the last sixteen hours of coverage. Of course it makes no difference to the ultimate result, but what it does is enable the BBC to slant the entire day’s news output to one of Labour success.

The BBC figure of over 7% of all seats contested as Labour gains is ludicrous. It is so far removed from reality, and they are so far behind Sky in adding up the total number of seats, that it is a statistical impossibility for this to have happened as an accident for the last sixteen hours – as impossible as your winning if you just sat in a casino for sixteen hours betting red on every single spin of the roulette wheel. This is deliberate and methodical spin by Purnell’s boys at the BBC.

Those 16.15 figures:

BBC

Lab 1461 (+240) Con 1072 (-178) Lib Dem 367 (-233) UKIP 142 (+140)

Sky

Lab 3036 (+171) Con 2200 (-167) Lib Dem 745 (-178) UKIP 156 (+140)

UPDATE

To spell it out further.

The BBC is showing New Labour as having a 14% increase in their number of seats.  Sky is showing New Labour as having a 5% increase in their number of seats.

The BBC is showing the Tories as having a 14% decrease in their number of seats.  Sky is showing the Tories as having a 6% decrease in their number of seats.

The BBC is showing the Lib Dems as having a 38% decrease in their number of seats.  Sky is showing the Lib Dems as having a 20% decrease in their number of seats.

This effect can only be achieved consistently by a very careful non-random selection of which seats the BBC is feeding in to their totalizer.  The final figures will prove how mendacious the BBC were – but by the time those are available the results will have slipped down the news agenda.  It is about news management.

 

 

 

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Labour Flunks, BBC Spins

The Labour Party has tanked in the English council elections, at a stage in the electoral cycle where every experienced person knows an opposition party would be expecting to pick up a minimum of 800 English council seat net gains. On today’s figures, they are nowhere near achieving an overall majority at Westminster, even ignoring the massive negative momentum against them. Labour have a swing of -8% against them compared to the 2012 local council elections.

Labour played the game of negative expectations in a massive way, claiming a net gain of 150 seats would be a victory for them. So far they have a net gain of just 82. But the extraordinary thing is that the BBC have, throughout the Breakfast News period – the largest TV news watch of the day – been unable to add up all the council seats yet. Sky has totaled every single one of the council seats declared overnight, while the BBC has been able to total under half – and the BBC has come up with a Labour net gain of 102. This has enabled the BBC to show a three figure Labour gain on its strapline all morning, and lead every news bulletin: “Major gains for UKIP in English local elections. Labour has also made gains. A poor night for the Conservatives and Lib Dems”.

That the BBC, which has more regional reporting staff than Sky by a factor of 30, is unable to tally the seats of all the councils declared so far, while Sky had done it all night very efficiently, is remarkable. And when Labour has made net gains of only 82 overall in the overnight declarations, to get a Labour net gain of 102 out of just over a third of the declared seats is virtually impossible for the BBC to achieve except by deliberate action. The BBC have cherry picked the very few areas where Labour has moved forward and ignored areas where they suffered losses. Precisely what one would expect from the BBC.

The fact that Labour cannot form the next government shows the people of Scotland they have a very simple choice. Tory rule or Independence. What the UKIP surge shows is that nasty xenophobia is rampant in England. The Tory party will move even further to the right to capture some of this ground – and so will New Labour. We could well see a Con/UKIP Westminster coalition after 2015.

So if you are Scottish, these are your only certain choices for the future:

Independence or Tory Rule
Independence or Leave the EU

It is as simple as that. The BBC will nevertheless try to hype the remotely vanishing possibility of a New Labour government instead, to appeal to tribal loyalty. Though why anyone would want New Labour who kick-started tuition fees, NHS privatization, academy schools and are obsessed with nuclear weapons, is beyond me. There is no choice open of a social democratic UK.

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CIA Triumph

It is quite extraordinary to me how very little publicity is being given to the CIA sponsored military coup in Libya, following the same event in Egypt. The Arab Spring was front page headlines. The CIA and Saudi sponsored cooperation to turn it back to the deepest of freezes virtually gets no mention. This is even true of Libya, where we bombed tens of thousands of civilians to a pulp to ensure the changeover of regime, under the guise of installing democracy. The real aim was never democracy, but a neo-con friendly government, which is so much better secured under the auspices of the CIA.

The sheer arrogance of the political class and mainstream media in their hasty acceptance of the re-establishment of military dictatorship in Egypt, as though nothing wrong had happened, has been breathtaking – and almost entirely unchallenged. Tony Blair’s defence of the coup as the need to overthrow “political Islam” is not stated so openly by governments, but is indeed the motivation. Democracy is a good thing – except for Muslims, is their belief. Yet the government of Saudi Arabia is the most appalling example of entrenched “political Islam” in the world. But as it is unabashedly billionaire and neo-con friendly and pro-Israel, the Arab Gulf State model of political Islam is acceptable to the West. Only democratic, popular, political Islam must be overthrown.

I find amusing that the neo-cons are supported in this by the hard left in the West. It is fascinating to go back to this post and see the comments from those who supported the overthrow of Morsi as a left wing democratic revolution. In many instances, they are precisely the same deluded people who accept without question or query even the most obviously faked Russian propaganda about events in Ukraine (such as the obviously faked photo of the “strangled pregnant woman” in Odessa).

One particularly vile outcome of events in Egypt is David Cameron’s attempt at post hoc justification of Britain’s support of the military coup, by an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood here as a terrorist organization. As with the periodic persecution of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the UK is sending a very dangerous message. First we are telling Muslims, with good sense, that they should not support their aims through violence but through democratic political activity. But then we are telling them that they must not do that either, and in fact the only course which is permitted is to adopt the same opinions as ourselves.

Personally I am deeply opposed to theological government. But those who wish to espouse it should have every right to do so by peaceful means. If we seek to remove all outlet for political Islam in the field of free thought and debate, we can scarcely complain if it turns to violence.

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Vote Green in England

So who should those of us living in England vote for tomorrow? I intend to vote Green – it seems to me that in England that is the best way to give a positive expression to the discontent with mainstream parties. I particularly hope that those who have the opportunity to vote for Rupert Read in the East of England will do so. Their support for renationalizing the railways would be enough for me, but actually I find myself in agreement with the large majority of their platform. I reproduce here an article from the ever excellent Peter Tatchell.

The Greens – not UKIP – are the real alternative to the political Establishment

By Peter Tatchell

Each of the three Establishment parties has succeeded in alienating its core vote. Labour over Iraq and the casino banking culture that flourished during its tenure in office. The Tories over Europe and equal marriage. And the Lib Dems over tuition fees and propping up of one of the most anti-egalitarian governments of modern times. All have been tainted by the scandal over MPs expenses. As a result, participation in mainstream politics is declining further than ever.

The UK’s first-past-the-post voting system is said to produce strong governments, avoiding what many perceive as the grubby infighting that dominates politics on the continent. But it isn’t working anymore. Millions of votes don’t count in rock solid safe seats and supporters of small parties are unrepresented or under-represented in parliament.

Many voters damn the political elite with the familiar refrain: “They’re all the same.” This is fairly true with regard to the big three parties: Labour, Tory and Lib Dem. There is very little difference between them these days. They all embrace, to marginally varying degrees, neo liberal economics.

Many people are, however, desperate for an alternative but they fear their voice will not be heard.

The European elections this Thursday offer a chance for something different. Because they use a system of proportional representation (PR), we have an opportunity to vote for what we believe in, without fearing that our votes will be wasted. PR is sometimes a mixed blessing. It was PR that allowed UKIP a foot in the door at the last Euro poll, and in this election it looks like the anti-EU party will win more seats than anyone thought possible for a new party 15 or even 10 years ago.

Nigel Farage entered the European Parliament in 1999. This was also the year that Caroline Lucas was elected as one of the UK’s first two Green MEPs (the other was Jean Lambert). She went on to become the first Green MP at Westminster. A parliamentary seat still evades Farage and his party.

UKIP supporters want to withdraw from the EU. They fantasise about plucky Britain standing alone against the world. UKIP stirs this nostalgia for ‘Great Britain’ and excites fear about immigrants and refugees. It has filled some of the void created by the discredited mainstream politics and, in particular, by the weakness of the orthodox left.

But for people who believe in social justice and equality, and who want action to thwart climate destruction and to protect the precious environment on which all life depends, the Greens – not UKIP – are the real alternative to the big three parties.

The Green vote is seen by some people as a protest vote, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. It is a vote against Labour’s failure to defend working class people and its initiation of the part privatisation of education and health care. It is a vote against the Lib Dem’s abandonment of principle in favour of power. It is a vote against Tory austerity which makes ordinary people pay for the economic crisis created by reckless bankers. It is most certainly a vote against the homophobia, xenophobia and climate change denial of UKIP.

But in this election, voting Green it is also a vote for something. The Greens are a party that offers an imaginative, alternative positive vision of how our future could look. This is fairly unique, given the broad political consensus between the stale, grey Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.

Unlike the three Establishment parties and UKIP, the Greens advocate decisive EU action to close tax avoidance loopholes and tax havens, tax empty homes and financial transactions, cap banker’s bonuses, axe nuclear weapons, prioritise energy conservation to cut household bills and to introduce rent controls, a living wage and free education.
http://www.reasonstovotegreen.org.uk

As a veteran of nearly 50 years of political campaigns, I look toward 22 May with a strange mixture of hope and fear. Fear that the hate-mongers of UKIP are poised to advance and to challenge some of the gains in minority rights and human rights, with the aid of their far right allies in the European Parliament. But also hope that the Greens may eclipse the Lib Dems; including the election of new Green MEPs such as Peter Cranie in North West England and Rupert Read in the East of England. Both lost narrowly last time. A tiny swing to the Greens will get them elected and, in the North West, will have the added bonus of probably surpassing the British National Party vote and thereby blocking the re-election of BNP leader Nick Griffin.

Make sure you vote: Show UKIP and the three Establishment parties the red card. Give the Greens a chance.

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The Blair-Bush Letters

If anybody is surprised that key letters between Tony Blair and George Bush on launching the invasion of Iraq have gone missing, they have not been paying attention. On both sides of the Atlantic, the Obama and Cameron regimes have consistently and continually covered up the crimes of their predecessors, from launch illegal wars of aggression to instituting programmes of torture and extraordinary rendition and murder.

The motive in both cases is the same. Not only are the senior politicians in all mainstream parties members of the same “club”, committed to the same neo-conservative principles and indebted to the same corporate paymasters. But also these crimes involved the active complicity of thousands of senior members of the establishment, in the armed services, the secret services, the diplomatic services and other public servants. To come clean would take down thousands of people still in public service. or in other high places. In the UK, for example, war criminals Sir Richard Dearlove now master of Pembroke College Cambridge and Sir Mark Allen of Shell are only two who would have to go to jail. I am sorry to say that I am convinced that some people I know and like myself, ought to be sentenced. Not that it will happen.

When a state embarks on illegal war and systematic torture and murder, as a state, the ramifications go extremely wide. Literally thousands of highly placed people are implicated. There is nothing short of political revolution which would bring justice.

It is fascinating how far even the “liberal” media will and will not go in reporting these crimes. The murder part is almost entirely left out – it is well documented, for example, that scores of rendition flights went to Uzbekistan, including many from the CIA black base in Szymano-Szczytny in Mazuria, Poland. But it is almost never noted that not one person who was rendered to Uzbekistan ever emerged alive. They were all murdered.

The astonishing disparity of wealth in the UK – with just nine families owning as much as the poorest 15 million in the country – has now reached the point where, together with the crimes described above and the takeover of all main parties by the same neo-con philosophy – I have become, for the first time in my life, a political revolutionary. I have, unexpectedly, lost my faith in the ability of the currently constituted “democratic” system to provide a fair society. That seems to be because the extreme and escalating concentration and control of capital coincides with the extreme and escalating concentration and control of the media. That media control seems, despite the availability of alternative new media, to have sufficient power of influencing people to grant untrammeled hegemony over society to the wealthy.

Working on the Voltairian basis that il faut cultiver le jardin, I shall continue to work for Scottish independence on the grounds that smaller polities have a greater chance of resistance, a kind of theory of political asymmetric warfare, and that for cultural reasons there has been a less complete neo-con takeover of political debate there.

To return to Chilcot, there is a sense in which it is good that he has not yet reported. Chilcot is holding out to be able to include the Bush-Blair correspondence, which offers conclusive proof that the “WMD” meme was a knowing lie to justify a vicious and pre-determined war. The recent Tory pressure for early publication is for publication without these documents. Much better to wait and get the actual proof.

The idea that two heads of state corresponding on taking their states to war can be “private” and kept from their people, is so outrageous that the fact it is stated at all is, in itself, sufficient evidence of the media control being as complete as I assert. It is a laughable proposition. Besides which, if these were private letters, why were Sir David Manning and Sir Christopher Meyer delivering them at public expense? Can we charge Blair for this service? Meyer and Manning don’t come cheap. It was, incidentally, Sir David Manning who brought back to No. 10 the request from the White House that I be sacked as British Ambassador in Uzbekistan for kicking up a fuss internally over extraordinary rendition.

After careful consideration of the Rome Statute, I am convinced that an independent Scotland will be able to refer Blair to the war crimes tribunal at the Hague, and I am determined to make sure that this happens.

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Honest US Senator Wanted

Looking for an honest US Senator my be a long shot, but we need one now to take forward the foiling of the British government’s attempts to block publication of the Senate report into torture and extraordinary rendition. Now we have got this into the mainstream media, it may have more traction. I am delighted that the Belhadj legal team have formally adopted the information that the UK is seeking to block release of key information in this report. Given that the Crown’s defence in the Belhadj case rests entirely on the argument that the USA does not want the facts revealed, that the Crown is then lobbying the USA to hide the same facts ought to be too much even for the most abject establishment lickspittle of a judge to stomach.

I have, however, never ceased to be surprised by the appalling quality of the English judiciary. Given the Megrahi case, nor can I pretend the Scots are any better.

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The Acanchi Effect

The financial position of ailing marketing firm Acanchi underwent a startling transformation in 2012 just as they started work on creating the fake grassroots movement “Vote No Borders”.

In 2011 Acanchi’s auditors noted “The Company made a loss in the current year of £197,003, and at the balance sheet date its liabilities exceeded its assets by £385,162”. The company had a turnover of £25,631 against cost of sales of £21,283 and “admin expenses” of £201,125.

In 2012 Acanchi started work in Cambridge and London on developing the “VNB” PR campaign against Scottish Independence, which is surprising given that BBC propaganda portrayed VNB as a spontaneous movement of local Scots. We know they started in 2012 because one of Acanchi’s staff, Jessica Quiney, posted it on her CV on Linked-in. The CV page was deleted yesterday but not before Wings Over Scotland grabbed a screenshot.

This work for the No campaign coincided with an amazing turnaround in Acanchi’s financial fortunes. In 2011 they made a loss of £197,003. In 2012 they made a profit of £103,292. The income from sales went from £25,631 in 2011 to £348,835 in 2012.

There is a very interesting explanation given in the Directors’ report to the Acanchi annual accounts for 2012. It is signed by Gary Waple, the man who registered the “Vote No Borders” domain and who now works for the Regulatory Commission of the Bank of England. Mr Waple states in the 2012 Acanchi Directors’ report:

The nature of Acanchi’s business is that the award of government contracts is subject to external delays beyond the Company’s control. As stated in last year’s financial statement, the Directors’ forecast that there would be a significant improvement in these financial statements. This was achieved as the result of the company being awarded contracts in the current period which had been the subject of long on-going discussions in the past.”

So what was young Jessica Quiney doing at Acanchi at this period? Well, in 2012 she:

“collated and formatted material promoting the pro-Union arguments in opposition to the SNP’s call for Scottish independence including development of narratives, a positioning strategy and a programme of micro-initiatives for this project.”

In 2013 Jessica was:

“Involved in the development and implementation of a proposal and subsequent micro-initiatives for a campaign supporting the No vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014”.

Vote No Borders had nine adverts in one single edition of the Daily Record newspaper in Scotland this week, each giving the story of a single “grassroots” Scots punter and why they are against independence. These “narratives” were developed by Jessica Quiney, a Cambridge classics student, born in England and educated at Northampton High School. I can see no evidence she has ever been to Scotland. Interestingly the photographer, Claire Borley, who took all the photos of “typical Scots” for the No Borders campaign which are appearing in the newspapers, is also Cambridge based.

Claire Borley’s cv gives a stunning glimpse into just how real and gritty this “Scottish grassroots campaign” is:

Born and raised in Cambridge, my professional life has always been about communication.

After gaining an English degree and jumping in at the deep-end in Bermuda as a PA with limited shorthand but fast typing, I worked in television production in London. Here I built up a wide variety of skills working for the Walt Disney Company, Buena Vista International, Buena Vista Productions, Roger Bolton Productions, Wall to Wall TV and Windfall Films.

After spending a number of years on the production side of a visual industry I felt it was time to develop my own creative abilities. With this in mind I returned to Cambridge and continued to work successfully as a freelance photographer for advertising, editorial and corporate clients as well as private clients, musicians and performers.

My aim is always to capture the personality and essence of the individual moment and make each project unique for the client. This leads to much of my work being used for PR, marketing and multi-media broadcast. I enjoy working below the line (direct mail, flyers etc), above the line (mass media advertising) or through the line (bit of both).

Young Jessica Quiney has done nothing wrong. Despite the fact that Fiona Gilmore, 100% owner of Acanchi, was now by 2012 raking in 100 grand a year in profit, poor Jessica was not even being properly paid – she was an intern, an example of the appalling exploitation of our young generation and the total lack of respect in modern society for the value of labour against capital.

But what cannot be forgiven is the BBC’s extraordinary promotion of VNB as a genuine grassroots organization – in total just under 150 minutes were devoted to showing Gavin Esler’s puff piece on the BBC News Channel, not to mention at least 20 minutes on other BBC news programmes.

It has recently come to light that the UK government has been rocked by private polling costing £56,000 of taxpayers’ money, which shows a major fall in “No” support. It is incredible that the government even thinks it is legitimate to pay with taxes for private polling to be made available to only one side in the referendum campaign. It does make you wonder, what else do they think it is OK to pay for? My strong expectation is that the poll of which news has been leaked is only the latest in a series; polling statistics are the basis of PR strategies such as the one Acanchi has been developing for the No campaign.

I cannot leave the subject of Acanchi without referring to this report that:

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, in October 2008, it was the turn of British firm Acanchi, hired by the foreign minister “to craft the new image” (“Foreign Ministry, PR firm rebrand Israel as land of achievements,” 6 October 2008). The firm’s founder toured Israel as part of the mission “to create a brand disconnected from the Arab-Israeli conflict that focuses instead on Israel’s scientific and cultural achievements.”

I have deep contempt for Fiona Gilmore. To try to create a “brand image” for Israel that leaves out the Palestinians, is the moral equivalent of creating a “brand image” for the Nazis that leaves out the concentration camps. Anyone who can tour Israel as the guest of the Israeli foreign office to that end, is not somebody I would wish to associate with. She is however the ideal partner for Malcolm Offord, the Vote No Borders financier – and major contributor to the Tory Party and to Michael Gove personally – who argues that Britain needs much more drastic cuts to welfare benefits. There must be something about food banks that gladdens the Tory heart. The prospect of not having any in Scotland evidently terrifies them.

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The UK In The Dock

I am delighted by the news that the International Criminal Court is to investigate war crimes committed by British armed forces in Iraq. The ICC – which in principle I strongly support – needs to show that it is not simply a tool of neo-con policy. It has confined itself to date to action against the defeated or the authorities of very poor countries. If it is to regain the support of decent people, which the concept of the ICC certainly deserves, it has to show itself prepared to act against the wealthy and victorious when necessary.

The other good thing about the ICC is that it will not confine itself to considering the prosecution of junior personnel. The reaction of the UK and US authorities to their own crimes is to refuse internal prosecution where possible, or if absolutely forced to do so, to sacrifice a pawn like Lynndie England or Donald Payne – the kind of people the politicians and billionaires are happy to see die to promote their interests anyway. The ICC investigators will rather be looking for evidence of structural and policy complicity leading to the very top – and I certainly can vouch there is plenty to find. I do hope Hoon and Straw find their sleep patterns disturbed.

It is two days since I saw Phil Shiner interviewed by Gavin Esler on this, and it was really extraordinary to watch. Esler appeared to find it intellectually impossible to comprehend that senior UK officials and “even Ministers” could find themselves up before the judges at The Hague, alongside “the likes of Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milosevic”.

I almost feel sorry for Gavin Esler. His job gives him access to an enormous amount of information, but he is only capable of absorbing and processing it through a filter of establishment narrative. The fact that in invading Iraq, British ministers were responsible for more deaths than Milosevic, or even than Charles Taylor, is something which he is somewhere, deep down, aware of as an abstract truth, but he has self-censored from synthesizing it into his world view.

Gavin Esler. What a wanker.

I should also just note that the dossier has been given to the ICC by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. You may recall I gave a talk there two years ago.

Here is Gavin Esler happily at work, peddling without question a narrative that turned out to be entirely false and a very transparent piece of state-funded propaganda:

Here is Esler reacting when somebody says something actually true, but which the political establishment do not wish you to hear:

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The Big Gay Wedding

As long term readers know, I love the Eurovision Song Contest. It is just so much fun and so resoundingly daft. Graham Norton’s comment last night, “it’s like the gay wedding I’ll never have”, summed it up rather well. We also learnt that Danish humour is impenetrable. Having once spent a week there living with Danish friends, I guess a country that seems to live on raw fish and raw eggs will forever shimmer beyond my comprehension. Like Hamlet’s mind – impossible to understand completely, but marvelous.

I was however saddened by the audience booing of the two young Russian girls. That was really nasty and unfair. They were scarcely more than children, for goodness sake. Putin is not their fault. That booing was an exhibition of racism; nothing else you can call it. If people wanted to make a point, they could have screamed for the Ukrainian girl – they didn’t have to boo the young Russians.

People always complain about political voting, but I think that’s half the fun. I always enjoy the voting far more than most of the singing. Last night, I think, was political voting in a wonderful way. It was a joyful expression of approval for the idea that human beings can and should be what they want to be. It wasn’t the first time either – I remember a similarly gender challenging singer from Israel winning some years ago. What was even better this year, was that another stereotype was also challenged, in that Conchita swept up much support from Eastern as well as Western Europe. Let it be said that she had a damn good song too.

We voted for the Polish girls. I thought the honesty of their approach was brilliant, and reminded me of so many happy days in Warsaw in my youth. Good to see women doing the washing too.*

All in all, great fun and a life-affirming evening. Now to clear away all the mess – why did I stick all those empty Prosecco bottles on the front garden railings?

*Private joke for my friends at Russia Today media (formerly trading as Indymedia).

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The Privatised NHS

The independence campaign in Scotland has re-established the reality of public debate and a genuine political community.  Through old fashioned meetings and face to face conversation, combined with social media, people are hearing a narrative which is blocked by the gatekeepers of the mainstream media.  Philipa Whitford, a surgeon, here talks about Labour Tories, Tory Tories and Liberal Tories combining to destroy the very principles of the NHS. You don’t get to hear this on the BBC.

You can skip the first minute, but after that I suggest you listen to every word, very carefully.

Hat tip to Munguin’s Republic

I might have worked out how to post my recent podcast interview by Michael Greenwell

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Alexander Burnes of Montrose

I wrote for 21 hours yesterday, until 5 am, broken only by a conversation with my literary agent in New York.  I also sent him a new synopsis for the book.  The current draft is 230,000 words long with 1,382 footnotes.

Here is the synopsis:

Sam,
It was good to catch up.  I attach the latest draft of the life of Sikunder Burnes.  This is not finished yet.  I don’t write consecutively, so there are some lacunae here and there, and there is a lot of editing and polishing to do.  Also there will be more chapter divisions.  But nearly all the material is there.  I had a go at a synopsis:
Alexander Burnes (1805-41) was probably the most famous figure in “The Great Game” and figures prominently in all the extensive literature on that subject, including Karl Meyer’s The Tournament of Shadows and Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game.  He figures extensively in fiction.  Burnes is the main character, apart from Flashman himself, in George MacDonald Fraser’s first Flashman book.  He is also the hero of Phillip Hensher’s novel The Mulberry Empire.  Though not named, he was undoubtedly the model of Kipling’s “The Man Who Would be King
Alexander Burnes features very prominently throughout William Dalrymple’s recent “Return of a King.” Both in his preface and in footnotes William Dalrymple refers to this forthcoming biography of Burnes.
It is peculiar that there is no biography of Burnes. His most famous adventure was in 1831, when he undertook a spying mission for 1,000 miles up the river Indus, through hostile territory, under the peculiar pretext of delivering by boat a present of five huge English carthorses to Maharaja Ranjit Singh.  At the time he was 25 years old.  He then proceeded through Afghanistan, often in disguise, and over the high passes of the Hindu Kush, across the Oxus (Syr Darya) and into the forbidden holy city of Bokhara.  From there he rode through the deserts to the Caspian sea to spy on Russian settlements.
He was feted as a hero on return to Britain, received by King William IV and by Princess Victoria.  His book Travels into Bokhara was a bestseller.  He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, and the Legion D’Honneur in France.
Alexander was an active Freemason, like his great-uncle the poet Robert Burns.  He claimed while in Afghanistan to have unearthed archaeological evidence of ancient freemasons, linked to the passage there of Alexander the Great.  [NB this is precisely the plot of The Man Who Would Be King].
He shared this information with his brother James, a military surgeon with him in India.  James undertook a journey calling on senior Freemasons in Europe which included a secret meeting in Paris where he was shown the hidden charters  and documents of the Knights Templar. On return to Edinburgh, James Burnes consulted with aristocratic families including the Sinclairs of Rosslyn and published his History of the Knights Templar.  This is the source of the “history” of the secrets of the Knights Templar being passed into Scottish Freemasonry. [ie the plot line of The Da Vinci Code and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.] James went on to become head of Scottish Freemasonry worldwide and Grand Preceptor of the Knights Templar.
The book tells the undeniably true and thoroughly researched and footnoted story of the Burnes’ brothers’ creation of this legend and its acceptance by Royalty and senior aristocracy, while remaining skeptical of the truth of the “secret history” itself.
On return to India, Burnes was sent to Kabul to negotiate a treaty with the Emir, Dost Mohammed, but behind his back the British authorities had already decided to invade Afghanistan and place a puppet ruler on his throne.  This was to counter Russian expansion into Central Asia.  In Kabul Burnes was jousting with an equally romantic Russian agent, Jan Prosper Witkiewicz.  Both were spies who had spent a career traveling in disguise in Central Asia.  Witkiewicz “won” as Burnes discovered that the British government had no intention of making peace, but on return to St Petersburg, just as the British invaded Afghanistan Witkiewicz inexplicably committed “suicide” in strange circumstances.
To justify the unprovoked invasion of Afghanistan, the British government  presented to parliament a “dodgy dossier” of Burnes’ dispatches from Kabul which were extensively edited to make it appear he supported the war.  Burnes twice offered to resign, but was talked out of it by the Governor-General, Lord Auckland, who appealed to his patriotism and said the army needed him.  Burnes gave in – a Lieutenant Colonelcy age just 33, a Knighthood and a Companionship of the Bath were all given to reinforce his loyalty.
Burnes became miserable and bitter as the invasion went ahead with all the terrible cruelties and injustices of war.  He was given no effective role or control.  On 2 November the Envoy and Minister, Sir William MacNaghten, and the hopeless and doddery general, Sir William Elphinstone, were both due to return to India leaving Burnes in overall charge.  He planned to end the British occupation.  On 1 November Burnes went to say goodbye to them, and that night he had a celebration dinner with his brother Charles and his friend Captain Broadfoot.  In the early hours of the morning the Afghan national uprising began with an attack on Burnes’ house.  With their guard and escort they held out for five hours, but inexplicably no help came from the British army cantonment less than two miles away.  All were massacred.  Within three months, the entire British army at Kabul of 4,500 men, and 8,000 camp followers, was destroyed with perhaps 9,000 dead. It was the most complete catastrophe the British Empire ever suffered.
The biography studies Alexander Burnes’ humble beginnings, the poverty and overcrowding of his home in Montrose, Scotland, his local state education, the family’s relationship to Robert Burns (who changed the spelling of his family surname).  It investigates the patronage that got James and Alexander into the East India Company through Joseph Hume MP, an old school friend of their father.  It follows how Alexander brought each of four sisters in turn out to India and married them to his brother officers.  It also reveals that he left a prostitute a large sum in his will.
Scores of historians have blamed Burnes for the Kabul disaster, right up to this day, on the grounds that his seductions of Afghan women caused resentment.  The book challenges this story, and brings new evidence that Burnes was well aware of these dangers, so he confined his sexual life to a personal harem of girls from Kashmir he brought with him for the purpose.
The book tries to place Burnes’ sexual behavior in context of the behavior of others of his day.  It finds that the British ruling class in India and at home prior to 1840 led extremely active and unrestrained sex lives.  Burnes is too often viewed by history as a Victorian but he was in fact for the majority of his short life a Georgian, and his sexual morals were in fact normal.  The book notes, for example, that Sir Charles Trevelyan, an icon of British respectability and a hate figure in Ireland to this day for his famine administration, as a contemporary and friend of Burnes lived with four Indian “wives” before later becoming “respectable”, yet Trevelyan’s biographies omit this, even those published this century.
Finally the book explores Burnes’ mind and his remarkable interests and achievements in archaeology, geology, paleontology and geography.  It finds that his absence of racism and respect for local culture was out of tune with the new mood of mid nineteenth century Britain, as was his religious skepticism.  Combined with his non-aristocratic background this made him the ideal scapegoat for the Afghan disaster, which is why he has been abused by historians ever since and never had a full biography.  This despite an active campaign for the truth which continued twenty years after his death, and on which Benjamin Disraeli and Karl Marx worked together!
Craig Murray is a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, and thus worked as an institutional descendant of Alexander Burnes.  He was Rector of the University of Dundee 2007-2010

 

Read a free sample: Sikunder Burnes: Master of the Great Game – by Craig Murray



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Dysfunction in Nigeria

I have fond memories of Borno state, camping beside my LandRover in the cold, crisp early mornings, steam rising from a cup of tea, then the thermometer climbing visibly as the sun got to work.  Fulani herdsmen crossing the horizon under conical hats with their angular cattle, women walking behind, slim and with beautiful posture, swaying as they walked.  The neat homesteads surrounded by fences of beautifully woven millet stalk.  Meals of roasted corn and suya.  I remember the farmer who offered me a drink, then took a tin cup and brought milk straight from the cow, still very warm. The people there are grave and hospitable.

I never one felt in the slightest danger, thirty years ago.  I am taken aback that places I went round then without a care for the British High Commission (I had the agriculture brief, which was an amazing license to roam) are now no-go areas.  The region is mostly dry savannah: the forest area stretching into Cameroon, incidentally, is by no means impenetrable, though it is true the canopy would be a barrier to aerial surveillance.  Very little of it is primary forest any more.

The media now have a new cartoon figure of hate in the bearded, bobble-hatted leader of Boko Haram, and in truth he is a very bad person.  But armed rebellions of thousands of people do not just happen.  It is not a simple and spontaneous outbreak of evil, still less a sign that we must wage Tony Blair’s war on Muslims everywhere.

Nigeria is a country with governance and corruption as bad as anywhere in the world.  A country of billionaires and of near starving sufferers.  A country of pollution and exploitation by big oil, and a happily complicit and deeply corrupt political class.  Nobody disagrees with that, and very few would disagree that there lies the root cause of Boko Haram’s ability to gather support.

If the Nigerian government were to have sent in the army en masse to try to recover the kidnapped schoolgirls, the first result would undoubtedly have been, on all previous experience of the Nigerian army, that hundreds more women would have been raped, this time by soldiers.  Villages would have been looted and people arrested, tortured and killed, more on the basis of extorting money than of looking for suspects.

To be fair to President Goodluck Jonathan he knows this, and he had made the extremely brave decision a year ago to try to deal with Boko Haram by dialogue and negotiation, and call off the military campaign which was making matters far worse.  He drew much criticism for it at the time, particularly from neo-cons, and will be blamed now.  The problem is that things have gone too far to be easily remedied, and to negotiate with the crazed is not simple.

Were I trying to get back the girls, I would operate through the agency of traditional society.  Nigeria’s indigenous institutions are much degraded, but offer more hope than any Western style interventions.  I am not precisely sure which is the appropriate traditional ruler, but I suspect that it is the Lamido of Adamawa, whose immediate predecessor I took tea with on several occasions.  Information on the girl’s whereabouts will definitely be obtainable through the networks of subsidiary chiefs and elders, which still exist, even though their political and administrative power had passed.  It is particularly helpful that in this region these traditional allegiances are linked to Islamic authority.  Adamawa’s territory extends into the Cameroon, and even Chad.

The fact of the old state of Adamawa extending into Cameroon and Chad brings us to the heart of the problem.  Nigeria is an entirely artificial, colonial construct created by the British Empire (and bounded by the French Empire).  Its boundaries bear no relation to internal national entities, and it is huge.  The strange thing is that these totally artificial colonial constructs of states generate a genuine and fierce patriotism among their citizens.  After just my first year of living in Nigeria I had formed a firm view that it would be much better for the country to be split into at least three states, and that Britain’s attitude in the Biafran war, that colonial state boundaries must be inviolable, had been wrong.

Many patriotic Nigerians will be very angry with me for suggesting their country should split up.  It is also worth observing that, not only in Nigeria, many Africans who are, with justice, most vocal in their denouncing of colonialism, are at the same time most patriotic about their entirely artificial nationality, created by the colonial power.

 

 

 

 

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Railroaded

The eminently sensible suggestion to renationalize the railways is one which has very strong popular support.  We have the highest rail fares per mile and at the same time the highest public subsidies per mile in the world.  The concomitant is, that we have the highest return on capital for railway investors in the world too, with the added icing that it is underwritten by taxpayer guarantee.  Renationalisation – without compensation – is the only sensible course, as it is for all the other natural monopolies.

It was sad therefore to see Ed Miliband squirming on television yesterday as he struggled to reassure various neo-con mouthpieces that he did not share the good sense of his backbenchers.  The present system was not working, he said, and we needed to explore new forms of ownership model.  What these were he did not say, but plainly they did not include taking anything back into public ownership.  The most he offered was a tepid concern about the reprivatisation of East Coast, but then he did not exactly not want it to be reprivatized either.

There could not be a more striking illustration of the fact that we do not actually have a democracy in the UK any more; we do not have major political parties offering voters a realistic choice of voter options.  What we have is different sets of prospective managers of neo-con policies on behalf of the ultra-rich beneficiaries of those policies.  The disconnect with voters is such that general election participation rates are in serious long-term decline, a fact which is given insufficient attention.  War criminal Blair’s “victories” were each based on well under half the vote, in three of the four lowest percentage turnouts of electors in history.  So much for the myth of his inspiring charisma.

Unfortunately the people who don’t vote are more inclined to apathy than revolution.  But I remain hopeful that disillusion with the political class will eventually lead to a fundamental change.  But it is also dangerous.  By vacating all of the intellectual space based around the human instincts of altruism, co-operation and sharing, the neo-con parties cede ground that in England can most easily be filled by populists whose projection of yearned for community values is also exclusive and xenophobic.  That is what is happening.  Enter UKIP.  Scotland is much more fortunate in that the neglected field of the desire for communal co-operation has been tilled by the non-racist independence movement in a shared national desire to escape the neo-con trap, which despite party hierarchies has cut swathes through the party system.

There remains a beacon of hope in new media.  Neo-con party attempts to capture this space have failed dismally.  Will Straw founded Left Foot Forward, a blog which has plenty of funding from New Labour and Trade Union sources.  Look at the last ten articles on that blog.  How many comments are there?  An average of less than two comments per article.  The truth is that despite its huge budget, almost nobody actually reads this sterile drivel.  The Tory/Government attempts at an astroturf grassroots movements with “Vote No Borders” was torn apart by social media in hours, and ended by closing comments completely.  Compare the utter vibrancy of Wings Over Scotland.

The transformation of the political space by social media is not happening nearly as quickly as many of us hoped.  But as newspaper circulations plummet and new media participation continues to rise, the process is inexorable.  The independence movement in Scotland has been advancing despite the orchestrated and near unanimous opposition of the UK government, the City of London and the mainstream media.  Social media has been absolutely key to that advance.   I think that Scottish independence can be the catalyst for an eventual much larger and much-needed process of transformation of politics throughout the British Isles.  But we also have to worry that the neo-cons, who did not get our money without being clever, will learn a lesson and look for new ways to hijack or to control the social media.

UPDATE

A gentleman posted an almost instantaneous comment linking to a blog by a senior Department of Transport official which claimed fares in France were higher.  It was completely tendentious in comparing the cheapest possible off-peak tickets with standard French tickets.  I deleted the comment as I suspect, by the speed of its appearance, it was from someone professionally employed to post such things.  If the gentleman wishes to contradict me I shall apologise.

Anyway, I decided to conduct a blind test, genuinely without knowing the result.  I went to book the cheapest possible fare on a train from Ramsgate to Manchester, return, leaving Ramsgate on Friday around 8am and returning on Tuesday around 9am.  This was simply a typical journey for me.  I then decided to check it against a comparable journey from Rouen to Dijon, almost exactly the same distance.

Ramsgate depart Friday 9 May 8.01am

Manchester depart Tuesday 13 May 8.55am

Cheapest Fare 249 pounds

Rouen depart Friday 9 May 8.24am

Dijon depart Tuesday 13 May 9.11am

Cheapest Fare 122 pounds

Incidentally, despite the fact this route uses HS1 and the Virgin Pendolino, the French journey is still an average of 40 minutes quicker for the same distance, as well as under half the price.

I shall see if I can reinstate Bryan’s comment and link now.

Another Update

In fact Bryan turns out to be absolutely genuine, and I am much too jumpy today.

 

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