Monthly Archives: June 2015


Theresa May Condemns Majid Ali and Defies Scotland

Despite numerous representations and an Early Day Motion signed by the large majority of Scotland’s MPs, Theresa May has ordered that Majid Ali, a Glasgow City College student, be deported back to almost certain torture and probable death in Pakistan in just twenty minutes from now. I attended the demonstration on his behalf yesterday at the Scottish Office.

Majid is a member of the much persecuted Baloch minority. Two of his immediate family have been “disappeared” by the Pakistani military since his asylum application was submitted. There is no doubt that given the numerous MP’s who have raised his case, and the well-supported early day motion, civil servants will have put the decision to May personally. She was however not even prepared to grant a delay for a look at the evidence. May is very likely not merely pandering to the racist UKIP voting electorate – she is on the far right of politics herself. The callous sacrifice of Majid Ali is proof, if any more were needed, that this Conservative administration is nothing to do with Cameron’s purported “compassionate conservatism.” They are the nasty party indeed.

But it also gives a stark example of the meaningless nature of the “enhanced devolution” in the new Scotland Act. Majid Ali’s community and Scotland’s elected representatives all want to keep him here, as an asset to his community and to our country. But even once the new Scotland Act is passed, it still would be Theresa May and the London Home Office who are the arbiters in all immigration and nationality matters.

For me, independence is the answer, and the only way Scotland will be able to operate as an ethical state. But for those Scots gradualists who actually believe in this devolution distraction, the absence of any input in immigration matters is a crucial example of how inadequate the proposed “new powers” are.

The majority of all extant UK statute laws apply equally in England and Scotland, but in Scotland are enforced by different administrative and judicial processes. While the UK is unfortunately a single state, it will have the same laws and regulations on immigration applying throughout. But there is no reason whatsoever that, as with so many other areas of law, the administration, judicial function and discretionary powers under the laws should not be devolved from London to Scotland as regards persons in Scotland.

That this is not so much as on the table shows how sham are the proposed “extra powers”. And that Majid Ali is being deported by Theresa May against universal Scottish opinion, shows the contempt which this Tory government intends to display against Scotland.

Assuming the deportation go ahead, the next useful step is to put pressure on Theresa May through letters to MPs to account for what happens to him after his return. There is a chance that forcing the British Government to make enquiries of the Pakistani Government about him may just keep him alive.

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Save Majid Ali

Glasgow City College student Majid Ali faces torture and death if returned to Pakistan. Majid Ali’s brother and other members of his immediate family have been taken and I am afraid very probably murdered by the Pakistani authorities as part of their relentless persecution of the Baloch people and desire to wipe out Baloch national identity. The UK Home Office intends to deport Majid. The people of Scotland must defend him.

There will be an emergency demonstration at the Scottish office, 1 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh at 13.00 tomorrow. I shall be going along. NUS Scotland are organising a letter-writing campaign to Scottish MPs to get them to put pressure on the Home Office. This is important.

It is appalling that London can seek to rip Majid from a Scottish community which values him, from a nation which respects its immigrant communities and their contribution, as part of Theresa May’s campaign to pander to the corporate media induced racism which regrettably has been introduced into many communities in England. It is a further example of why independence is essential to build a more ethical state.

The persecution of the Baloch has received little attention in the West. Peter Tatchell has done admirable work in trying to raise its profile in the UK, but with little traction. Like so many dreadful abuses, it is a direct result of wrongdoing by the British Empire. Baloch or Beluchistan was formally known as the state of Kelat, which Britain first invaded in 1839, destroying the city of Kelat in 1840 and murdering the ruler Mehrab Khan on the pretext he had given insufficient support to the British invasion of Afghanistan. Britain’s relations with Kelat thereafter were an appalling litany of broken treaties, culminating into the forceful and unwanted incorporation into Pakistan.

A few years ago I met the current Khan of Kelat at his home in exile in Wales and learnt a great deal about the dreadful persecution the Baloch suffer. In the course of my researches into British responsibility for the situation I cam across the crime of the massacre of Kotra. After the killing of Mehrab Khan, fighting continued until a truce was agreed with Mehrab’s 15 year old son Nasir. While the truce was in force, British forces silently surrounded Nasir’s mountain camp at Kotra and attacked before dawn, massacring 500. It is reminiscent of Glencoe, though this was a much larger massacre. In the National Archives of India I trembled as I held the manuscript order for the massacre in my hands.

We should do everything we can to save Majid Ali out of common decency, wherever he is from. But the knowledge of Britain’s historic responsibility for the situation should broaden and deepen our understanding of his plight.

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Labour Call Unemployed “The Work-Shy”

I just read the Guardian’s account of today’s Labour leadership hustings, and they are not Tory Lite, they are Tory High Octane. Supporting Tory benefit cuts, calling the unemployed “the work-shy”, defending £9,000 a year tuition fees, supporting Trident and falling over themselves to reject autonomy for the Scottish accounting unit. But what I find even more astonishing is that the Fabian Society audience were lining up afterwards for selfies with Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, and according to the Guardian nobody wanted a photo with Jeremy Corbyn, the one decent human being there.

The quite astonishing thing is that Andy Burnham, the man who privatised much more of the English NHS than anyone else including the Tories, is (Jeremy aside) touted as the left wing option. There is a very interesting diversionary tactic in play, all over the media. A meme is being promoted – by Burnham’s corporate media supporters – that “Andy Burnham fears he will be attacked over Mid Staffs hospital”. The events at Mid Staffs hospital, though awful, were clearly not Burnham’s personal fault. This is a fascinating PR play and example of media management, an attempt to divert the focus on Burnham’s NHS record on to Mid Staffs which has widespread public name recognition, and away from privatisation where he is much more vulnerable.

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Hug an Orangeman

Back in 1979/80 I had an American girlfriend who I was taking to see Stirling when an Orange march (it was some kind of national Orange event) came through town. She had not the first idea what it was about, but she felt terrified and threatened and ended up in tears, despite being a Presbyterian from Illinois. I tell you that story because it is difficult to get over to people who have not experienced it, just how nasty the atmosphere of an Orange march is. The aggressive rattle of the drums, the fierce posturing and apoplectic faces of the participants, the plain enactment of an aggressive territorial possession ritual, and of course the drunken and swaggering followers walking on the pavements forcing people off them or into the shops.

The great John Stuart Mill made the point in On Liberty that it was a perfectly legitimate point of view to express that corn merchants were thieves who made fortunes out of the starving and misery of the poor. But to use precisely the same words shouted to a howling mob bearing torches, outside a corn merchants’ house in the middle of the night, was not legitimate. Even the apostle of liberty held that freedom of speech could not be absolute but must be linked to context and intent.

That Mill’s observation is followed in practice is well illustrated by the Northern Irish practice of restricting Orange marches away from Catholic areas and churches. But the whole question of Orange manifestations raises difficult questions of how to tolerate the intolerant and to deal with mass threat. There is not a simple right or wrong answer.

But what I do know is that it is very wrong indeed that in Scotland in 2015, I had to warn Nadira this morning to be extremely careful as she set off to go to Queens Street station and then on to a meeting in Glasgow Film City in Govan.

As to the legal position, Orange displays are very plainly illegal under the Public Order Act 1936. This has not been repealed or contradicted by subsequent legislation and it does apply to Scotland. It is not otiose – it has been used against striking miners and against Irish Republicans.

Section 1 (I)

Subject as hereinafter provided, any person
who in any public place or at any public meeting wears
uniform signifying his association with any political
organisation or with, the promotion of any political
object shall be guilty of an offence :

The Orange Order registered as a participant in the referendum campaign. It is therefore by definition an avowedly political organisation.

Without any need to get in to the fact it is the only remaining effective part of Scottish Labour and Gordon Matheson’s sole resource on the ground.

If section 1 is not enough for you, and you would have to be a dedicated sophist to claim it does not apply, let me refer you to Section 2b which bans “the display of physical force in promoting any political object”. No reasonable person who has ever seen an Orange march can deny that is precisely what it is. (I do not use their lying term of walk designed precisely to obscure this truth).

Whether Orange street events should be allowed is a difficult question. Whether they are illegal is an entirely different question. They are illegal, and the fact the law is not enforced takes us back again to the subject of the institutional corruption of the Scottish legal establishment. I guarantee you that if I suggested we walk down Sauchiehall Street all wearing black berets in support of independence, we would be in the pokey PDQ.

Anyway, my knowledge of Northern Ireland comes largely from Graham Norton. So anyone who comes across the Orangemen in Glasgow today, I suggest that you, if you are male, scream out at one:

“Oh Wow! Look at you! You look just Gorgeous! And Orange is SO your colour!!! I had no idea you could be so dominant. I can think of things we could do with that umbrella/flute/drumstick/furry cockade. Anyway I shan’t bother you now in front of your charming butch friends, but we really must do it again sometime. (Mime “phone me”).

If you are female, you can play too, but better use a lower voice and say this:

“Oh wow! You look great. I am so glad I ran into you again. Honestly, I have been wanting to see you to say please don’t worry, it happens to a lot of men. Especially your age. Maybe it would help you if you wore your uniform?”

Go on, hug an Orangeman.

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The SNP Membership, Not the Leadership, Must Decide on the Second Referendum

The policy of the SNP is that there will not be a second referendum on Independence in the next 5 years unless something material changes, such as UK exit from the EU. Why is that party policy? Because Nicola Sturgeon says it is.

I am only a humble SNP ordinary member, for only four years. But something within me tells me I am allowed to disagree. And I do. Loudly.

I think it is essential that the SNP manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections states clearly that, if a Holyrood majority will support it, a second referendum will be called on Scottish independence before 2020. If elected on that manifesto, something material will have changed. A unique double mandate will have occurred at Westminster and Holyrood for supporters of independence. And that change will have come from where it counts, from the Scottish people, not from extraneous circumstances. The independence I want is absolute, not a product of external factors.

Those who are comfortable with the status quo, plus a few more powers for the Scottish parliament, will argue that we cannot hold the referendum until we are certain to win, that another loss will kill it for ever. But there is a much more important argument – that of missing the key moment, letting the window of opportunity slide by. With a very right wing Tory majority in Westminster immediately imposing fresh austerity in Scotland, and with levels of SNP political dominance historically unlikely to be exceeded in any pluralist democratic system, there can never be a more favourable conjunction. If not now, when?

The biggest danger is bottling it.

Gradualism has taken us so far. I liken it to a long jumper hurtling down the runway. You may be sprinting brilliantly, and achieve fantastic speed and momentum. But if you think “this is going well, let’s not change anything” and don’t alter your action when you hit that white board, you will record six feet and not thirty. Scottish independence is at the white board. Gradualism has had its day. It’s time to soar. Let’s not fail to jump and plunge into the Killiecrankie Leap, no matter how well we are sprinting.

Some genuinely think I am wrong. It is a legitimate argument. But it needs to be a legitimate debate at Party conference, and a vote by members that decides on whether a second referendum is in the manifesto, not a decision by the leadership. I share the popular admiration for Nicola Sturgeon. I think she is tremendous. But were she the Archangel Gabriel, I would not follow her on the “leadership principle”. I do not subscribe to it.

Which leads me to say that I have decided to put myself forward again for vetting to be an SNP candidate, for the Holyrood election. This has not been an easy decision given the leaks to the media and internet abuse I went through last time, and I realise that I open myself to the apparent humiliation of easy rejection.

I should add that if I pass the party hierarchy vetting but fail to be selected by party members in the constituency, I should have absolutely no complaint whatsoever. That is proper democracy working.

But it seems to me that it is now very important indeed that the SNP is a political party that genuinely welcomes internal debate and differing shades of belief of those sincerely attached to Scottish independence, and can accommodate in particular those of an independent frame of mind who will not guarantee always under any circumstance to do what they are told.

The SNP is now in a dominant position in Scottish politics and facing no coherent or effective external opposition. In that circumstance, extreme discipline becomes more frightening than admirable.

Canvassing during the referendum campaign one thing No voters repeatedly told me was that they feared that the SNP was authoritarian and an independent Scotland would have the characteristics of a one party state. I assured them that they were quite wrong. I hope to prove that I was not lying.

My last post was about the excellent Jeremy Corby. Pro-CND, anti-austerity, anti-privatisation, pro-Palestinian, he rebelled against the Labour whip 230 times in the last parliament. Yet the Labour Party – which we characterise as the epitome of machine politics – does not seek to suspend him or stop him representing them in parliament. Many in the SNP will agree that Corbyn is a first class MP. Yet the same people will argue that no SNP representative should ever be able to rebel against their party whip, even once.

I abhor the creed of Democratic Centralism, which has always been associated with Stalinism. The worrying thing is that at present I do not even find the SNP terribly democratic. I have been to two party conferences now and both were glorified leadership rallies without one single genuine policy debate. There are issues which urgently need democratic consideration. The second referendum is top of the pile. The future Scottish currency may be next. I would like to find what the new membership wants on the monarchy and on NATO. The very close NATO vote a few years ago by no means killed off that debate, whatever the leadership may want.

The SNP has shown it can dominate. Now we must show that we can be genuinely democratic.

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Jeremy Corbyn

I have shared a platform at anti-war and pro-Palestinian events with Jeremy Corbyn on dozens of occasions over ten years. We have also worked together where Jeremy has been extremely helpful asking parliamentary questions on matters including Britain’s stance on Palestine at the UN, and the Liam Fox/Adam Werritty/Matthew Gould relationship. I would not call him exactly a friend because we have never spent purely social time together. But he is certainly someone for whom I have the highest personal regard.

I am delighted that he is going to run for the Labour leadership and give voters a real alternative, compared to the minute differences between the neo-con puppet candidates. I shall be most pleased if this, like Nicola Sturgeon in the general election, gives a chance for anti-Trident and anti-austerity arguments actually to be heard in the corporate media.

But I fear this won’t happen. The BBC have been deluging the airwaves with the right wing identikit candidates, not only in items relating to the Labour leadership election, but inviting them on to any conceivable programme to blether on any topic. I am willing to bet a large sum the same media access is not granted to Jeremy Corbyn. If you don’t say “aspirational”, you don’t get on.

The media dismiss any argument outwith the bounds of their narrow, manufactured corporate consensus as marginal and irrelevant. For example, never mind the fact that a clear majority in the UK has for years supported renationalisation of the railways. The very fact of its popular support makes it imperative to the BBC and other corporate media that it must not be voiced. Jeremy is very likely to voice it. Watch as he is carefully marginalised, patronised and excluded.

The difficulty which the corporate media and political classes have is that we in the SNP have just driven a coach and horses through the argument that the radical case for social justice is marginal and has no popular support. The Labour membership, outside the London millionaires and focus group organisers, can see this too. The problem is that party is riven between Blairites, who only ever joined for personal career and position and don’t believe in anything except a vague attachment to Thatcherism, and actual believers in social progress, who have spent years in pathetic befuddlement wondering what happened to their party.

The idea that Andy Burnham – who privatised the English NHS at a much faster rate than the Tories – is in any sense at all a left wing candidate is utterly risible. It is typical of non-free “democratic” systems that they give electorates a pretend alternative, just as Ed Balls was no different to George Osborne. Sounding marginally more northern does not make you more left wing, and Burnham isn’t. He has just won the prize for the most obsequious arse-licking of Prince Charles, beating even the egregious Tony Blair. Anybody who signs a letter “I remain, Your Royal Highness, Your most humble and obedient servant” should not just be debarred from politics, but should be sniggered at by everybody they encounter for the rest of their life.

I am afraid I expect that enough Labour Party members are Thatcherites anyway, or open to persuasion by the media that Jeremy stands outside “respectable” opinion, that he will not be able to mount a serious challenge. And I am afraid we won’t see much of his views on wasting public money on weapons of mass destruction given air time. But fair play to him for running, and I sincerely hope I am wrong.

My personal political priority remains to achieve Scottish independence as I believe only the break-up of the UK can change its rotten corporate controlled political system. The kaleidoscope needs a kick, not a shake. To achieve that, I am committed to support of the SNP. But the lack of any credible or worthwhile opposition in Scottish politics is deeply worrying. I would welcome the kind of Labour Party that Corbyn would lead as a healthy democratic development. Sadly I don’t expect it.

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Ludicrous Feminism Against Salmond

That the Tories and Unionist establishment would attempt to land a sexist smear on Alex Salmond for calling a woman a, err, woman, is unsurprising. That they are joined by a number of ludicrous feminists is unsurprising too.

It is probably the case that it is a more frequent use in Scotland and Northern England than in Southern England to add “man” or “woman” after an injunction, but anywhere from Grantham northwards “Behave yourself, man!” or “Behave yourself, woman!” is a perfectly unexceptional expression. That the use of “woman” in this sense is sexist is absolute nonsense. “Behave yourself, human” would not be a normal expression. The idea that Salmond calling Soubry “demented” was in some way anti-woman is even more ludicrous. Women have no monopoly on demented behaviour. In fact it is a rather anti-feminist idea that women should be protected from robust verbal exchanges when men should not.

None of which will stop the feminist nutters from having a go at Salmond. Feminism appears unique in breeding acolytes who have no notion whatsoever of wider social questions. They are therefore perfect tools for the establishment to turn against anybody who threatens authority. The feminist stampede to condemn Julian Assange on the basis of quite ludicrous charges orchestrated by CIA asset Anna Ardin is one example where feminists delight the hearts of the powerful. Their turning on Tommy Sheridan was another. Now they fly at Alex Salmond. They are, men or women, stupid, and the most useful of idiots to the forces of wealth, power and privilege.

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Poetry and the First Afghan War

I am still pruning back Sikunder Burnes to reach the publisher’s target of 180,000 words (which to be fair is more generous than modern publishers generally are). It is a difficult process, and it feels like deadwood and weak branches went some time ago, and sap is now flowing with a vengeance.

Had I room I would have added a section on poetry. For those of you who are not Great Game aficionados, the dramatis personae here will be obscure, and make a note to come back to this after you have read the book. But in a tale of adventure, exploration and ruthless conquest in British India, I have been constantly surprised by the connection of almost all the leading characters to poetry, and how closely the poetic was woven into their lives.

Alexander Burnes’ grandfather was of course first cousin to Robert Burns. Alex continually quotes Burns in his correspondence, but not only Burns. He was very fond of and frequently quotes Thomas Moore, and Alex’ correspondence with Moore and meetings with him in London are accounted an influence on his poetry. Alex also frequently quotes Fergusson, Ramsay, Byron, Milton, Shelley and often passages of poetry I cannot place. He also had a real passion for the Persian classical poets, who he regularly quotes in Persian.

The Burnes family were stationed at the cantonment in Bhuj, Cutch for 13 years. Their first chaplain in Bhuj was James Gray, himself a noted poet, editor of Fergusson, Hogg’s brother-in-law and one time teacher of Robert Burns’ children.

The President of the Board of Control, John Cam Hobhouse, had been Byron’s closest friend and companion. The Secretary of the Secret Committee working under him was the poet Thomas Love Peacock. (I digress from poetry to note the Secretary of the Political Committee was John Stuart Mill). Alex’ friend and colleague Darcy Todd was the son of Coleridge’s muse Mary Evans. Henry Torrens, Auckland’s secretary, was a minor poet of some merit and in addition to his original work translated the Thousand and One Nights, on which even the apparently unpoetic William Hay Macnaghten worked (a sadly bowdlerised affair). Surprisingly, Mohan Lal reckoned Charles Masson a “great poet”, very probably in the Persian language, though I have been unable to find his poetry among his papers in the British Library. Lal was himself a poet. Shah Shuja was reputed a fine poet. Mehir Dil Khan of Kandahar, a key participant in Burnes’ Kabul negotiations of 1837, led an important revival in Afghan courtly poetry.

There is much more. I was not in any sense considering poetry as a theme when I started research, but have been struck by the way that poetry was interwoven into daily life, and a poetic sensibility was part of the world view of the administrators of the British imperium in India in the 1820s and 1830s. I did not expect that at all. How their world views were reconciled with imperial aggression, exploitation and even atrocity (and individual reactions were very different) is a major part of the study.

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Serial Convictions

For the second time in six months Edinburgh City Council has been to court and obtained a summary warrant against me for non-payment of Council Tax. On neither occasion was I given any notice of proceedings or any opportunity to defend myself. On both occasions, I had actually paid the tax before the warrant was issued, but – without telling me – payment had been refused by Edinburgh City Council.

I moved in to my new home in Edinburgh at end November 2014. It was a somewhat tumultuous period in my life and I confess it was after New Year before I got round to sorting out the Council Tax. When I did this, I phoned up and paid by credit card, entering my reference number and the payment amount electronically. There was no warning this had not gone through.

I was therefore astonished to discover that, after I had made this payment, Edinburgh Council went to court and obtained a summary warrant against me. This was because my payment had been refused not by the card but by Edinburgh City Council – unbeknownst to me – as it had been referred to the grandiloquently entitled “Sherriff’s Officers”, Scott & Co. The payment had to be made to them and their exorbitant fees had vastly increased the amount due. The “Sherriff’s Officers” are, of course really bailiffs, or licensed bullies and enforcers.

That was infuriating, but I paid up, even though I am very dubious indeed about the system. It seems to me entirely unethical for the body owed the debt to refuse to accept payment for it, and then go to court for non-payment.

Having eventually paid the Council Tax plus the large fees of Scott & Co, I found myself financially embarrassed just as 2015/16 Council Tax now became due. I therefore delayed until 25 May when I paid this year’s council tax, 50 days late. I am this evening astonished to find that on 28 May Edinburgh City Council again went to court and obtained a judgement against me for non-payment, three days after I paid. Again I had no notice of the court case or that payment had been refused. I today – eight days after I paid – received a letter stating that my payment had been refused because it had not been made through Scott & Co. I had received no letter indicating I had to pay through them. When I paid – online this time – everything seemed to go through and I got a reference number and confirmation.

It is astonishing to me that under two months late is considered a sufficiently late payment for the Council to go to court for summary judgement for debt recovery. I know of no other council, public body or utility that acts in such an ultra-draconian manner. Is that really the norm here in Edinburgh? That seems to me astonishingly harsh in a period of austerity where people are struggling financially.

I confess I am not in a comfortable financial situation, but there are a great many people much worse off than me. Piling extra court and bailiffs’ costs upon them so quickly and brutally seems to me astonishingly lacking in compassion. My personal situation was initially caused more by forgetfulness and pre-occupation than lack of money. But it has made me realise just how, in these times of austerity, the financial pressures on people can snowball out of control so quickly, and how much despair must surround us unseen.

As for the bailiffs of Scott & Co. (in fact a private partnership owned by a husband and wife whose connections to the City Council could well merit close investigation), these parasitic scum disgust me, living high on the misery of the poor.

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Coulson Lying is OK by Judge – to Maintain Sheridan Conviction

Andy Coulson lied under oath, repeatedly, in the Tommy Sheridan trail. He has not been acquitted of lying. He has been acquitted of perjury, by the judge, Lord Burn who ruled that whether he told the truth or not would not have affected the outcome of the Tommy Sheridan trial. It is very important to note it was Lord Burn who took that decision – he dismissed the jury who were given no chance to have their say. So Coulson is protected from a stretch in Saughton pokey, and more to the establishment’s purpose, the conviction of Tommy Sheridan stands.

Coulson lied about phone hacking in the Sheridan trial. Coulson has form. “Lord” David Burn also has form. He was part of the Megrahi “defence” team of advocates who failed to ask a score of glaringly obvious questions about the holes in the prosecution case and payment of witnesses in the fit-up of the century. The Scottish legal establishment is a sewer.

UPDATE

Here is a step by step guide to how the scam was pulled by the excellent Gordon Dangerfield:

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Charlie Kennedy

I have known Charlie since about 1979. He was, and always remained, a brilliant, witty and very gentle man. His weaknesses were of the gregarious kind, one of many things we had in common. We first met on the universities debating circuit and in student politics. He became President of Glasgow University Union and I of Dundee University Students Association. As we both ran as Liberal Democrats that was uncommon. By one of life’s quirks, a generation later he was Rector of Glasgow University and I was Rector of Dundee University. We both shared a horror of the marketization of universities and an urgent desire to return to the old Scottish tradition of democratic governance, and we worked together with other Rectors to institute regular Rectors’ meetings and try to make the office of Rector relevant.

Charlie had come under the most enormous pressure not to oppose the Iraq war. The entire force of the British establishment bore down on him, including from former party leaders and from Ming Campbell, though he denies it now. Charlie showed tremendous courage and spirit in resisting the pressures to which almost everybody in authority in the Westminster power structure caved in.

Charlie told me the story of how, as party leader, he was invited by Blair to Downing Street to be shown the original key evidence on Iraqi WMD. Charlie was really worried as he walked there, that there really would be compelling evidence as Blair said, and he would then be unable to maintain the party line against the war. When he saw the actual intelligence on which the dodgy dossier was based, he was astounded. It was incredibly weak and “totally unconvincing”. Blair was not present while Charlie saw the reports, but he saw him afterwards and told Blair he was quite astonished by the paucity of the evidence. Blair went white and looked really rattled, and resorted to a plea for patriotic solidarity. He then reminded Charlie he was not allowed to reveal what he had seen. Charlie felt bound by good faith – he had been shown the intelligence in confidence – not to publish this. Not I think his best moral judgement.

Charlie was very definitely not an enthusiastic supporter of the coalition and, though a federalist not a nationalist, generally kept his distance from the Better Together campaign. He seemed to me to have lost self-confidence through the exposure of his struggles with alcohol, and probably underrated his influence. Charlie was consistent in both his faults and his principles. As President of Glasgow University Union, he was inclined to hands off sybaritism; his expenses and use of taxis became an issue, and that epicurean streak never left him. In his presence I always felt an inferior talent, and those of us who knew him 35 years ago I think all expected him to rise even higher than he did. But he never had the sociopathic streak that makes a dominant political career, and he was at base a very decent and kind man. That is how I shall remember him.

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