Not a Liberal Democracy 45

New Labour were the chief culprits in moving Britain away from a liberal democracy and into an authoritarian state.  The series of “anti-terror” laws they put through were the most draconian in British history, far outweighing anything the government of Lord Liverpool did with the Six Acts.  Yet the entire liberal establishment went along with Blair, and those of us who warned we were sliding fast away from democracy were denounced as conspiracy theorists.

You hope there will be moments which will wake people up.  I not only hoped but believed that I could myself trigger such a moment when I blew the whistle on the Blair/Straw policy of widespread complicity in torture.  I discovered to my great personal cost, and as a matter of cathartic personal disillusionment which has defined my entire life since, that the establishment were perfectly OK with torture.

I should like to believe that today’s advent of totally secret criminal trials in the UK is another moment when revulsion might set in.  But I am not holding my breath, as an 800 year right to open justice is removed.  Theresa May had already applied to have another case heard in secret in which the government is being sued for complicity in torture.

I know from eye-witness report that it was only Jack Straw’s fear of an open trial and a free jury that prevented my own prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for blowing the whistle on torture.  If I did it today I would get a secret court and no jury. Now two men stand to be imprisoned for life on the basis of “evidence” from the intelligence services which even the accused are not to be allowed to see.  Remember this is “evidence” from the same intelligence services who told you that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.  Anything they have to say against anybody must always be open to the widest public scrutiny.  The idea that people should be convicted in secret on stasi evidence ought to be truly shocking.

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45 thoughts on “Not a Liberal Democracy

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  • Dreoilin

    “British ministers sanctioned the use of torture against internees in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, home secretary Merlyn Rees told Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan in 1977, it has emerged.

    “The Rees letter has been discovered in the British National Archives in Kew by RTÉ’s Investigation Unit, which last night broadcast The Torture Files, a Prime Time documentary into the treatment of some of those interned without trial.

    “The letter emerges on the back of earlier research by the Pat Finucane Centre, which suggests the Irish government and the European Court of Human Rights were deliberately misled by London about the treatment of people interned in 1971.”


  • pete

    A secret court and no jury. And. I presume, no independent verification of the evidence. Well why bother with a court case at all, why not just stroll on to the verdict?
    I guess AB and CD will be kept permanently in solitary confinement to prevent them ever saying anything to anyone about what actually happened.

    Too true, not a liberal democracy.

  • Ba'al Zevul (In The Bleak Midsummer)

    Any ugly projections of a democratic nature will be slowly and quietly ground away in order to facilitate a global economic hegemony. And when you’ve gone you won’t miss them because you’ll be too busy with working and consuming. By the way, your tablet’s well out of date. Buy a new one NOW.

  • Evgueni

    Craig Murray, I have said it before but I will repeat myself, what the hell. You are a product of a lifetime of indoctrination, the central theme of which is the myth that Britain and its allies are democracies. They never have been, though the myth has been extremely useful to the elite structures.

    To paraphrase Forrest Gump, democracy is as democracy does. What Britain has done is documented very well by Mark Curtis
    The latest developments are in keeping, no radical departures..

  • Mary

    I did comment on it Craig (on the previous thread). One of my friends wrote to Lord Carlile who apparently defended the trial when he appeared on Radio 4 Today this morning. I could repeat the reply he received but I won’t. It would shock you.

    PS It came with this disclaimer. Would I go to the Tower if I was guilty of ‘Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying’?

    UK Parliament Disclaimer:
    This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

  • Mary

    The BBC reviews the press.

    Efforts by the media to overturn a ruling that the trial of two men on terror charges should be held in secret are recorded by several papers.

    The Guardian leads on the case, quoting lawyers for the media groups arguing that to hold a trial behind closed doors is “inconsistent with democracy and the rule of law”. However, the government says total secrecy is required to preserve national security and the paper quotes counter-terror officers arguing that there is a “serious possibility that the trial may not be able to go ahead” if it has to be held in public.

    The Telegraph’s headline quotes civil rights campaigners describing it as an “assault” on British justice, while for the Times the move “puts open justice in jeopardy”.

    Pointing out that it was only as a result of the media’s legal challenge that judges allowed any mention of the fact a secret trial was to be held, the Daily Mail prints a front-page comment arguing: “Yes, national security is of paramount importance, but being unable to report that a trial is held in secret is surely the thin end of a deeply sinister wedge.”

    and reports

    Secret trial plan ‘serious threat to justice’

    Carlile’s view is reported within.

  • Mary

    He defended Rennard the ‘alleged’ sex pest. The testimony of those decent young women was as nothing to the LD partei.

  • Ba'al Zevul (In The Bleak Midsummer)

    Lord Carlile acted from 2005 to 2011 as the independent reviewer of British anti-terrorist laws…

    …He is …President of the United Kingdom’s largest professional security organisation, The Security Institute, and Chairman of the Chartered Security Professionals Registration Authority.


    Safe pair of hands, then.

  • Abe Rene

    The BBC report ( referred to a trial with jury, albeit in camera. But in the interests of open justice, I hope that the appeal by the media succeeds. If not, it might indicate the need for a fully written Constitution for the UK. That said, any system, however good theoretically, can’t work much better than the people who operate it.

  • Ed

    “Now two men stand to be imprisoned for life on the basis of “evidence” from the intelligence services which even the accused are not to be allowed to see.”

    Well that seems like a very clear violation of Article 6 of the ECHR. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see how possibly any conviction survives all the legal challenges it will face.

    Not that anyone in the British establishment gives a toss any more, but still.

  • John Goss

    “Not that anyone in the British establishment gives a toss any more, but still.”

    Not quite true since barristers recently walked out over the removal of legal aid. But I agree that law is becoming non-existent. No habeas corpus for Muslims with indefinite detention a possibility, open trials a thing of the past for the torturing security services, removal of legal aid for poorer people, and so on.

  • YouKnowMyName

    more names from the murky background of the Blair/Straw times… ex-MI6 indeed!

    From Sunday Times 22/4/2012

    “Farr is probably Whitehall’s most important and influential spy, the man most closely associated with “Big Brother Britain”. He was responsible for the so-called “snooping bill” that caused the government so many prob­lems earlier this month. He personally oversaw the introduction of the coalition’s rebranded regime of control orders to detain terror suspects without charge and he drove its ambitious attempts to curb the radicalisation of young Muslim men.

    A bright and driven bureaucrat, he has shaken up Whitehall’s security machine, impressing successive ministerial bosses with his vision since he was plucked from MI6 in 2007 by John Reid, the former Labour home secretary, to head the Home Office’s security and counterterrorism office. Farr won plaudits for overhauling the government’s handling of the war on terror.”

    it also mentions/alleges

    “Farr’s handling of the now infamous snooping bill seems to typify these contra­dictions. Ministers ran into a storm of criticism after The Sunday Times revealed they were planning to allow the intelligence agencies to monitor social media, Skype calls and email communications as well as logging every site visited by internet users in Britain. The plans were due to be announced in next month’s Queen’s speech, but were put on hold when they were leaked.

    It is no secret in Whitehall that the grandiosely titled communications capabili­ties development programme was Farr’s “policy baby”. In fact, it was a rehash of an earlier attempt by Farr in 2009 to persuade the then Labour home secretary to build a giant database where the government could hold details of all emails and telephone calls. It obviously needed sensitive handling, but its delivery was bungled by Farr’s office and it was dumped by Labour after an uproar. When a new government was elected he tried to resurrect the plan — with similar results.”

    It seems that everything Farr wanted was actually implemented, if we believe Snowden and Merkel et al.


    Secret Courts hmmm. There’s a historical tome about a bloke who had a 19th Century penchant for intruding on Queen Victoria’s pad – over and over. Loadsa media about his antics during that era with with whacky portraits of course. Anyway suddenly he vanished for good. Hmmm? A modern historian wrote up the phenomena and revealed that a totally secret UK Court dealt with him and got him secretly shipped of to Oz/ Botany Bay. So its not entirely the first of such capers and the current debacle is a disgrace. I dont know why Secret cases are not located inside a big red fully zipped up red holdall.

  • Mary

    Ukraine crisis: Russia must engage with Kiev, says G7

    ‘Later in Paris Mr Cameron met Russian President Vladimir Putin, giving him a “very clear and firm set of messages”. The two leaders met in a customs area of the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport. This was Mr Putin’s first face-to-face meeting with a Western leader since the Ukraine crisis began. “The status quo, the situation today, is not acceptable and it needs to change,” Mr Cameron said.’

    I am sure President Putin is quaking in his boots.

    PS What a strange place for their meet.

  • Lord Palmerston

    “Not a Liberal Democracy” indeed. That is because you can have
    Liberty or you can have Democracy but you cannot, for any length of
    time, have both.

    The mass of the voters don’t care about Liberty. The authorities
    didn’t back down over mass surveillance, nor over the Miranda arrest.
    They have judged, correctly, that these cost them no votes. They are
    pressing on with their programme, including now secret trials.

    This is what happens when the common man, who cares for liberalism as
    much as did Genghis Khan, has the right to vote. It will not go into
    reverse and it will not stop before Democracy itself comes to an end.

  • intp1

    Reading several articles on the proposed secret Trial in the Guardian, none allow comments. On one of the articles by Owen Jones a footer says “Comments on this article will remain closed for legal reasons” to clarify, they were never open.

    I can only assume some D-Notice/If you like your hard drives intact, type warning has been issues in order to suppress dissent.

    I think Labour are allowing themselves to grumble only because they and the powers that be, know they cant stop it.
    If they were in power, they would no doubt tow the line or face consequences.
    Jack Straw hired to commentate on the BBC Queens Speech program disgusts me.
    For what it’s worth, it all disgusts me to think ‘this is Britain’ now.

    I think the public are distracted by either their south east ‘we’re all right jack’ mood or we are too austerty’d to death. They also seem much dumber than they used to be?

    That and the fact that they think it wont ever be them that faces secret charges that no-one will know about, with witnesses and evidence they cant see or challenge.

    I’m trying to think of a pariah regime to compare that to but it is hard to come up with. The US and UK will presumably be held up as examples of the extreme standard in lost human rights and justice in centuries to come.

    Write to your MP, talk to your neighbours, scream at them in the Telegraph and elsewhere, tactical vote them out next year,(Do UKIP have a unintended function there?) whatever, It’s unacceptable!


    re Intp1 above … no it is quite right that public comments should be curtailed when articles are reporting on going court proceedings. Imagine if it were otherwise with a bog roll news media such as the DAILY MAIL. No there should be and usually are restrictions re ongoing Court proceedings reports.


    John above many thanks for that .. will follow up. I assume that you do mean that it can all be done in absolute total secrecy. Anyway thanks.

  • Brendan

    At the time the law was passing, Rifkind and Clarke argued that secret trials were actually aiding transparency. Not kidding, btw, they wrote this in The Guardian. Their ‘argument’ appears to be that secret trials allow more evidence from the security services, thus making securitat more transparent. I really don’t know what to say to this kind of logic. It’s authoritarian logic, and nothing I can say can pierce the barrier of the authoritarian mindset. I can merely point out that it’s bullshit, which it is.

    As to the lack up uproar, it’s like we are being trained to accept such things. CCTV is my personal bug bear, but there is also anti-terror laws, internet surveillance, all of which have gradually encroached on our liberties, so we have become used to them. This particular law is a big step, but in context seems relatively minor, perhaps. I’d still expect more from the legal bodies, but they seem to have been corrupted, too.

    I feel like an animal in a zoo sometimes. Being stared at. An unwitting contestant on Big Brother. I’m a private sort of fellow, so maybe it all bothers me more than many, but the 24\7 surveillance of basically everybody is extremely weird indeed, almost voyeuristic. But as ever, expect nothing from any of the neoliberal parties, they appear too scared to intercede.

  • intp1

    5 Jun, 2014 – 11:00 pm
    Imagine how it would be?
    Imagine a trial that was public! in which the PUBLIC were allowed in and then (not allowed to open their mouths to each other?)

    How do you know there is an ongoing trial?

    You could be censored about anything at all with the excuse that there is a related ongoing trial, since no-one is allowed to know otherwise.

    You are munching clover next door to the slaughterhouse.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    The pain of TB* so great they tied his 10 year old sister to the bed with rope…as a moving accompaniment to Craig’s essay on the state of Britain today, see Harry’s Last Stand in yesterday’s Guardian. It is an intensely moving and saddening account by a man who saw the most dreadful poverty, two world wars and the creation of the NHS, and now despairs for what is happening in the country. The guy comes across as a deeply admirable man, and can’t half write.

    Read and weep

    * Tuberculosis, not Tony Blair.

  • Mary

    There is no irony as the slippery arms salesman we have as Prime Minister strides around the Normandy beachheads speaking of what those brave men did for our freedom, all the while taking away our freedoms (this secret trial is one example) and destroying our beloved social institutions (like the NHS for example) set up after WWII.

    I will not be watching any of the stuff coming over the airwaves today as these war criminals and gangsters posture in Normandy.

    ‘David Cameron has written an article for the French newspaper Ouest-France to mark the D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations.

    As we gather on the beaches of Normandy to remember the extraordinary sacrifices made for peace, there has never been a more important time to underline our belief in collective defence.

    Through the searing experiences of moments like D-Day, we learnt how much more we could achieve by working together as allies than by fighting alone. The NATO Alliance was born out of this commitment to increase our collective security and to ensure that the common cause we found through shared hardship would prevent conflict on this scale threatening our world again.

    Just as British and French soldiers fought for victory against a common enemy on the beaches of Normandy, today France and the UK stand shoulder to shoulder against the threats of the modern world. We remain united against international terrorism and extremism – and in recent times our armed forces have served together in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and elsewhere around the world.

    But it is not just our military ties that have deepened over these past 70 years. We have also worked together to ramp up diplomatic pressure in advancing our shared values, most recently in the push for humanitarian assistance in Syria and in our support for the Ukrainian government. Alongside NATO, the European Union has also helped us to develop a peaceful continent which is more connected than we could ever have imagined and which has opened up unprecedented opportunities for trade and growth.

    So as we look forward to the future I believe we should take strength from the shared hardship of our experience during World War II. It has forged our unique relationship and created a shared determination to work together for a safer, more prosperous future for us all. That future is why so many of our service men gave their lives – and protecting the peace they fought for is the greatest way we can honour those who fell.’

    What a smooth tongued bastard.

  • Bena

    I agree. Three points:

    1. It is only courtesy of judiciary that we even know that the trial is taking place. If the government and prosecution had had its way, even that information would have remained secret. Can we be sure that there haven’t been secret trials in the recent past for which a reporting order, banning publication of the existence of the trial, has remained in force?

    2. On the question of practicalities, I can see how secret evidence can be presented to a closed trial, but I can’t see how the defendants can remain anonymous. Their friends and families must know who they are. Unless they are held incommunicado for ever, fellow inmates will know their identity. British law may constrain people in Britain communicating on the internet, but it does not bind or intimidate the whole world. (And if family, friends, and prison inmates know or will know, what is the national security issue in extending the information to the British public?)

    3. The mere fact that someone can be secretly arrested, charged and convicted on secret evidence with it being unlawful even to publicise the person’s name means that Britain has ceased to be a liberal democracy. It doesn’t have to happen to everybody; the fact that it happens to one person is enough.

  • Dave

    I’m surprised there aren’t more comments here.

    I have direct experience with the courts in private family law. I dont think that experience is entirely unrelated to this. My first encounter I was optimistic and naive, thinking that it would take one hearing because things were so simple to resolve, and the solution was so obvious.

    I have seen how evidence was fabricated, how judges knew ths was going on and turned their eyes, and how they allowed the case to drag out, searching for every possible thing to prevent me from having a relationship with my children. Bob geldof has written about this, as have thousands of others less famous.

    I also now know, after several years of experience, that so called judicial independence from state and corporate interests is nonexistent in this country, in spite of what is claimed. The family courts are also secret, because if they were not there would be lots of outrage. Also, parents are not allowed to discuss their cases with anyone, let alone the media.

    Children are treated like commodities in this country, or at best pawns, though the industry that capitalises on their management and trafficking claims that child welfare is paramount. Ha!

    These two journalists will not get a fair trial, and even if they do, the damage will already be done, because the bullying will have already deterred lots of otherwise decent people from reporting the facts.

  • Ba'al Zevul (Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes I do)

    I’m surprised there aren’t more comments here.

    Not a lot to be said, is there? It’s straightforward enough. On the one hand, open trials, jury of peers, fair and undiscriminating process: liberal democracy, promoting its enlightened values to the benighted savages of insert oil-rich country here from a morally unassailable position.

    On the other, all the other stuff. And by a bitter irony and failure of perception, the legitimising of our undemocratic process was our response to the activities of aforementioned benighted savages. We have been successfully subverted.

    Terrorism 1: democracy 0

    Just a thought: it would be possible to introduce some transparency if participants in such trials – including jurors – were made to sign the OSA if and when secret material were introduced. Exclusion of the press and public from only the sensitive parts of the proceedings has plenty of precedents…even in council meetings…and would be legitimate.

    Justice MUST be seen to be done – we can argue about the quality of the view, but there must be some kind of view.

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