I was about to go into my box at the Lyceum Theatre last night when I received a text that there was a pro-independence demo on at Holyrood. So I abandoned my hosts (I did not feel quite as bad about this as I had stood for pre-theatre supper), fled the theatre and positively jogged down to parliament. I passed most of the demonstrators leaving on their way home, saltires draped over shoulders and Guido masks on top of heads. But there were still a few hundred there when I arrived, listening to unpractised speakers telling their very real stories: the independence cause continues to be a genuinely popular movement. One young demonstrator told me how proud they had been as they marched down the Royal Mile, with pedestrians homeward bound after a day’s work spontaneously stepping off the pavement to join the march, and the bars emptying. I then watched the fireworks bursting over Edinburgh.
I said a while back that if we won independence, I would move back to Scotland. Well, independence is now so inevitable I am indeed moving back, and have been flat-hunting. This is now an Edinburgh blog, and I hope from this weekend will have its Edinburgh home.
Lewes has been much in the news lately. Yesterday they were going to burn an effigy of Alex Salmond, and then didn’t. It is a conundrum why a town which genuinely retains the most radical popular political traditions in England, also is the most fervent place of practice of the reactionary art of catholic effigy burning. They vary this now by burning protestants, too. Cameron and Clegg have been done. I think my fellow Scottish Nationalists who got very upset about the potential Salmond burning were perhaps overreacting. The mistake of the members of the Lewes Waterloo Society was to fail to realise that Salmond is not merely another self-serving member of the political class; the selection was not based on race.
The tradition of burning Guy Fawkes reflects the undeniable fact that there used to be a genuine popular enthusiasm for parliament, which was seen as a bastion against Papal despotism, even long before the large majority of the population had a vote. Nowadays Parliament has become a very different kind of symbol. It symbolises an highly oppressive, authoritarian, narrow political class which shamelessly makes money at our expense, while furthering the interests of vast corporations which enforce the low wage economy and astonishing, ever growing, wealth gap.
The natural instincts of most people today lie with the man who tried to blow up parliament.
It is truly remarkable that, while the BBC and rest of the mainstream media gave hour by hour coverage of the democracy movement protests in Hong Kong, there was virtually no coverage of the violent and brutal treatment, over days, of the Occupy Democracy protest in Parliament Square in London. Nor any mention that there was far less democracy in Hong Kong under British rule than Chinese.
In Lewes, I once spoke to a flourishing political society which claims a direct descent from one founded by Thomas Paine himself- a vivid reminder to us in Scotland that there is a native radical tradition in Southern England, deep underground and waiting to be rediscovered. Lewes also has as its MP Norman Baker, one of the most decent men in politics, who recently resigned as a junior minister over the government’s entirely illogical “war on drugs” – illogical not least because of the drug habits of so many MPs. My current host, Hugh Kerr, when an MEP once made a speech in the European Parliament where he pointed out that many members were voting against drug liberalisation with whom he had personally participated in drug taking. An example of the excessive honesty that led to Hugh being forced out of the Labour Party.
Norman Baker was the subject of many vicious pieces in the mainstream media following his resignation. The crime of daring to think outside the box on drugs, and even worse crime of disagreeing with right wing nutjob and media darling Theresa May, meant that Baker had to be thoroughly monstored. But the most disgraceful and cowardly of all these attacks came from the Guardian of state stooge Alan Rusbridger. This is simply an appalling piece of journalism.
I have met Norman Baker a couple of times, and had a very entertaining conversation with him about Murder in Samarkand on Lewes railway station. The subject of UFO’s never came up. Indeed, if you google “Norman Baker, UFO” you get hundreds of media stories, all of them put out following Baker’s resignation and very evidently put about by Theresa May, for whom the Guardian is but a sounding board. In fact Norman Baker did once suggest in parliament that UFO cases deserved proper official investigation, which seems a perfectly rational view – and as the British government has, over decades, amassed thousands of files on UFO sightings, a view clearly widely held.
Baker’s other great sin is to believe David Kelly was murdered. Well, I think it is very probable indeed that David Kelly was murdered, and so, I suspect, do a very large percentage of the population. If the establishment is truly so confident that David Kelly was not murdered, it is remarkable that they refuse to have an inquest and allow a jury to decide the question in the normal way.
Norman Baker’s true crime was not to be a fully paid up member of the political class. He had never been a special adviser or political assistant. he had some hinterland, other interests, and did not confine his thinking within the tiny sphere of neo-con orthodoxy beyond which the corporate media will declare you a nutter. Politicians must all look the same, and Theresa May and Nigel Farage are now the only acceptable templates.