Monthly Archives: September 2015


Grand Designs

I just watched an episode of Grand Designs, about a man with MS converting a cave home, which was the most uplifting piece of television I have seen for a long time – and thus naturally not on the BBC. I was particularly pleased as recent episodes had concentrated on rather unpleasant stinking rich people building luxury palaces, to the extent I was thinking of giving up on the series.

The connection is a stretch, but on the subject of homes, I am not surprised by the media witch-hunt against Michelle Thomson, an extremely effective new MP. The Police have confirmed that Michelle herself is not under investigation. As always, those who challenge the British establishment will come under every angle of attack that can be contrived. Michelle should resist the pressure being placed upon her by hypocritical unionist politicians and media, and everyone should calm down while the police inquiry into the other people involved is concluded.

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Syria and the Law

The legal position is perfectly clear. Syria has a recognised government, that of President Assad, represented at the United Nations. That government is legally entitled to call on Russian military assistance. Russian military action against ISIL is therefore legal.

By contrast, US and French military action has neither the sanction of the Syrian government nor the sanction of the United Nations Security Council. It is therefore plainly illegal.

Neo-con propagandists have attempted in the last fifteen years to promote a new doctrine known as the “responsibility to protect”. This is identical to intellectual justifications of Imperialism from sixteenth century Spain through to Victorian England and Imperial Russia. It holds that misgovernment of less developed nations justifies military action against them by more developed countries out of humanitarian concern. It runs directly to the established international law of non-interference and the need for Security Council sanction of military action. The “responsibility to protect” is not enshrined in any generally accepted international treaty – certainly nothing that overrides the provisions of the UN charter – and is not accepted by the large majority of the countries in the world. It is not customary international law and remains a propaganda phrase, not a legal concept.

Finally, I should add that on precisely the same arguments, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is, beyond any doubt, illegal.

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UN General Assembly

It is a strange world where the passage I most agreed with came from the Iranian President:

Iraq, Syria and Yemen are all examples of crises being stoked through terror, extremism, violence, bloodshed, invasion and the indifference of the international community. They are similar examples displaying cases of displacement, homelessness and fleeing from the horrors of war and bombardment. Their problems have persisted because the international community has failed them and because of incorrect actions of newcomers to the region and naive trans-regional actors. Consequently, the wave of destruction has gone beyond the Arab world and reached the gates of Europe and the United States and has resulted in the destruction of the relics of civility and precious works of ancient civilizations and, more broadly, has resulted in the death of humanity.

We must not forget that the roots of today’s wars, destruction and terror, can be found in the occupation, invasion and military intervention of yesterday. If we did not have the US military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US’s unwarranted support for the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime against the oppressed nation of Palestine, today the terrorists would not have an excuse for the justification of their crimes.

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A Woodworm Off the Old Block

I used to discuss foreign affairs with Tony Benn over tea in his kitchen in Holland Park when I lived a short walk away. I get a mention in his later published diaries in this regard. I was therefore saddened to hear his son, Hilary, at Labour Party Conference today align himself with the establishment in a way much more in tune with their aristocratic ancestors.

Benn was sending out neo-con friendly signals like there was no tomorrow. The first came from the very start, when he paid unnecessary and fulsome tribute to the really horrible wee Dougie Alexander who had “served his constituents extremely well”. That really was a pathetic lie. Wee Dougie paid no attention whatsoever to his constituents and took them entirely for granted. Labour’s lack in Scotland of any foundation in the people was what made it so easy for us to topple the Labour monolith.

Benn went on to advocate the “Responsibility to Protect”, the Blairite code for supporting United States military and especially bombing missions abroad. The thesis that Western bombing improves and stabilises countries appears tested well beyond destruction, but the neo-cons stick with it because of the corporate interests it does so much to boost.

Benn disgracefully then called in the body of little Alayn in argument for bombing Syria. He even noted that Alayn had fled Kobani, which “the BBC had reported as almost completely destroyed”, without mentioning – as the BBC did not mention – that some of that destruction had been caused by repeated American bombings of Kobani.

I am sorry that Tony’s son turned out to be a vicious, warmongering, lying, neo-con bastard.

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Dreams of Catalonia

Good luck to Catalonia today in breaking free from the suffocating grip of Spain. I hope that the Francoists in power in Madrid do nothing to provoke violence.

There may be an important precedent here on how to proceed in the event of the central government refusing to grant a referendum. I was pleased that Alex Salmond came out last week and said that a referendum is not necessarily the only route for Scotland. While that position is undoubtedly correct in international law, I had suffered pooh-poohing from Leadership Loyalists in Scotland every time I mentioned it. Hopefully now Salmond has spoken, the sheep will stop bleating. We do not know how things will pan out with Westminster and we must not close off our own options.

There is one interesting side issue in Catalonia. The astroturf anti-independence organisation Ciutadans (Ciudadanos in the rest of Spain) is a classic creation of Western security services. Its purpose is to counter both Catalan Independence and still more, Podemos, and maintain a secure right wing Spain in NATO. But unusually it is not the CIA that has been in the lead, but the BND, the German overseas security service. This is an outlier for a newly assertive policy by the BND, so the results will be watched particularly closely in the more obscured corridors of Berlin.

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More Truth About British Torture

I am delighted that Shaker Aamer is finally to be released from Guantanamo. This is something I have worked, campaigned and spoken for, along with groups including Cage, which I am proud to support and which the government is attempting to ban.

We cannot give back to Shaker the thirteen years of imprisonment without charge, let alone trial. We cannot undo the physical and mental damage of all the torture. We can see him reunited with his family and demonstrate our support and affection.

Just as nobody has been charged over the illegal waging of a war of aggression against Iraq, nobody faces prosecution over the equally illegal policy of complicity in torture, to which policy I personally was an eye-witness.

The reason Shaker has been detained longer than any other British resident is that he was tortured with MI6 personnel directly in the room, as opposed to waiting outside. If the British establishment were not totally corrupt, his return to the UK would finally make it impossible to avoid prosecutions over torture, up to and including Dearlove, Straw and Blair.

The one thing we know for certain about the stinking cesspit of the British political system, is that justice is not possible.

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Corbyn Kneeling Story A Media Invention

The media appears determined to narrow the Overton Window further to exclude republicanism, which would make the views of over 30% of the UK population unacceptable as a part of normal political discourse. The fascinating thing about the concept of the Overton Window as enforced by the UK media, is that some of the views not given media airing as being beyond the pale of “respectable” opinion – such as rail nationalisation – actually enjoy public support.

The media are currently intent on demonising Jeremy Corbyn as a republican by inventing conflict between him and the Queen. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg asked him in a corridor whether he would be prepared to kneel and kiss the Queen’s hand as part of the ceremony of joining the Privy Council, and the media splashed his demurral as the lead broadcast and print story of the day. It subsequently became plain that Kuenssberg is a medieval fantasist and there is no hand-kissing involved.

Naturally no apologies followed. The Guardian is still attempting, even today, to milk the story with a front page article indicating Corbyn may not kneel. I should sincerely hope not. I kneel to nobody. Personally I find the idea of kneeling to another human being as weird as the idea of sticking my penis in a pig’s mouth. But apparently grovelling servility is the norm, and even thinking about not doing it makes you a weirdo.

The interesting thing is nobody has actually asked the Queen. I have met the Queen in public many times and in private twice, on both occasions to be thanked for my role in organising State Visits. I had explained I was a republican and Scottish nationalist (in those days small n) and was therefore refusing the offer of a LVO and a CVO respectively. I did not bow, or call her Ma’am. She actually asked me my reason for refusing the honour the first time, and was perfectly pleasant when I explained politely but straight. I received direct from her hands small gifts of an armada dish and a letter rack. I eventually auctioned the letter rack for the Julian Assange Defence Fund.

She showed no umbrage or concern whatsoever that I was a republican – I am sure she meets them all the time – and behaved towards me in an entirely normal fashion, not in any way noting my refusal to obey the court protocol. I personally witnessed a proposed honour to another person being downgraded because “the Palace” did not like them, but there was no question of any sanction on me for my republicanism. The proof is that there was never any question mark over my doing the job all again on a second occasion, either from the Queen or from her private secretaries.

If Jeremy Corbyn sticks to his guns, and just goes along and shows normal respect, I have no doubt at all the Queen will carry on completely unfazed. She is not stupid, is very well aware that a significant number of British people are republicans, and is not interested in making people uncomfortable. She will expect so long as she is monarch, Jeremy Corbyn to work as prescribed within the forms of government – just as I organised State Visits to the very best of my ability. But personal displays of obsequiousness are not of importance to the Queen; they are rather the obsession of the pathetically servile Guardian and other media.

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Centralising Police A Crass Error

The tragedy of the elderly dementia sufferer in Glasgow would in all probability not have been averted if a report to police had been handled properly. It was one of scores of reports of possible sightings the police received from members of the public. Besides, lives come to an end and we have to face that not all can do so as neatly and pleasantly as we would wish. But still it is a mistake that should not have been made, and increases the pressure on Police Scotland.

Having created a unitary police force, the Scottish government will have to accept it will get blamed for every police failing, whether related to the reorganisation or not. But that the reorganisation has knocked police morale badly is beyond dispute.

Policing is best done locally. Call centres have been reduced and centralised, and that reduces the possibility of speaking to someone who knows a little of the location and circumstance you are talking about. That is relevant to the crashed car case, and is just one illustration that policing is best kept local. The culture of the Western Isles is different to the culture of Aberdeen which is different to the culture of Glasgow which is different to the culture of the Highlands which is different to the culture of the Borders. Cultural sensitivity is a key aspect of policing. Besides Police should, in principle, be a local service not a national imposition of governmental authority.

The concept of a national police force has implications from which anyone of a naturally liberal frame of mind recoils. Its imposition, along with the incredibly statist “named person” policy and minimum alcohol pricing, reveals that there is a powerful strand within the SNP whose instincts are highly authoritarian. That is particularly worrying when we have gained a position of remarkable political dominance in Scotland – because of support for Independence. Those voting SNP want freedom from Westminster domination, but it is not an excuse to impose a big clunking State in Scotland.

One key marker of authoritarian states is an implied claim that the state is perfect and never makes mistakes. We could gain a lot of respect, and dispel a lot of fears, by admitting the single national police force was a major error and reversing it.

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Living With Putin (and Assad)

The West cannot approach the problems of Syria, Ukraine or Iran without facing up to the question of its relationship with Putin’s Russia. That relationship is now severely dysfunctional and characterised by squabble and acrimony on a range of detail encompassing much of the globe.

Anti-Russian sentiment is now forming part of the ceaseless wave of militarist propaganda to which the media endlessly subjects us. There were particularly pointless pieces two days ago on all British broadcast media about one of the Royal parasites taking the salute at the 100th anniversary of some RAF squadron. Every week some military unit will have some anniversary. Plus the Second World War lasted fully six years, and as the 70th, 75th and 80th anniversaries are each to be commemorated of every happening during that war, there is never a single day with a shortage of excuse for some royal prat in a Ruritanian uniform to take a salute.

Both Sky and the BBC have recently run pieces on how the brave RAF squadrons protect us from the devastating Russian bomber threat. The alleged “problem” was that Russian aircraft fly along in international airspace close to British airspace. In other words, there is a major issue with Russian aircraft behaving perfectly legally. No mention was made of the fact that NATO aircraft do exactly the same thing to Russia, only many times more often. We saw jets scrambled to meet the “emergency” of Russian aircraft who were – err – flying along well North of Scotland and never entering British airspace at all. You were supposed to watch it and think how happy we are that the RAF are keeping us safe. I was left sobbing at the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money I had just watched wasted for no reason at all.

Which is not to say that Russia is not a threat. Russia plainly is a threat to some of its immediate neighbours. Putin holds that parts of the Former Soviet Union with ethnic Russian populations should be absorbed into Russia. That was the cause of the attack on Georgia, the annexation of Crimea and the de facto annexation of parts of Eastern Ukraine. Putin’s motivation is sometimes hard to fathom, but certainly this use of military power against weak neighbours, with a definite ethnic agenda, is very popular with the Russian public. To Putin, it is more or less cost free, as Western corporate interests would be damaged by any positive action Western governments might take – the “sanctions” are almost entirely token. Putin is not mad enough to take on one of the former Soviet states which is now in NATO or the EU, so his possible future targets are severely limited.

Nor is it plain that Putin is “winning” in a strategic sense. Just three years ago, Russia had a pre-eminent influence throughout all of Ukraine. Now 70% of Ukraine has been lost forever to any Russian influence at all. That is a peculiar kind of victory. The economy of the Crimea plus Donbass is in disarray and even before the crisis, the GDP of the entire region was about the same as the GDP of Dundee. The whole exercise is yet another example of the thesis of J A Hobson, adopted by Lenin, that Imperialism benefits the military and political classes but not the Imperial nation as a whole. The Ukraine civil war has been good for Putin and the Russian military. It has done nothing for Russia.

It is coincidence that the Ukraine confrontation has coincided with a collapse in hydrocarbon prices. But the economic impact of that collapse has been stark and has highlighted Putin’s total failure in the most important task facing him – the diversification of the Russian economy. The failure to develop a viable manufacturing sector and to halt the extreme, Nigerian style levels of capital flight has condemned Russia to continuing Second World economic status. People take issue with my description of the Russian economy as the same size as the Spanish economy. I stand by it. Remember published economic data is historic, rather than reflecting the situation today. I am also unimpressed by attempts to disguise economic failure by using Purchasing Power Parity, rather than actual dollar values. PPP states that as cabbage is extremely cheap in Ekaterinburg, Russians are cabbage rich. So what?

Russia is no superpower. Its economy is the same size as Spain’s, and a good deal less diversified. It is a nationalistic kleptocracy. It has nonetheless a certain residual influence from its imperial past, and continuing Imperial present. Dagestan, Chechnya and Tatarstan remain colonies. Putin is extremely aware of that, which is why peaceful anti-imperial pro-independence campaigners from those countries receive heavy prison sentences, or simply get killed.

Undoubtedly the temporary economic difficulties caused by the oil price collapse have decreased Russian influence for a time. Russia went from being a major player in the Iran nuclear talks (remember the proposals about processing of Iranian fuel in Russia), to being in the end irrelevant. Russia’s impotence over Iran came from a realisation that the prospect of a return of Iranian oil to the open market would depress energy prices still further. But in Ukraine by virtue of force on the ground, and in Syria by simple virtue of being plainly right where the West has been horribly wrong, Russia remains an important player.

I have no time for the Assad regime. The current occupant is not so vicious as his father, but it remains a dictatorship, and I look forward to the day it passes. But you have to be crazed not to accept that the growth of vicious Islamic extremism means that it is necessary for Syria to be reunited under Assad and the dictatorship to survive another decade. That plainly is the lesser of a number of evils. There is no good solution.

Attempts to demonise the Assad regime over use of chemical weapons have been almost entirely unconvincing. The effort by the media to demonise “barrel bombs” – as though being eviscerated by a proper western made technological bomb is preferable to being eviscerated by a homemade bomb – has been bizarre. What is needed is an immediate halt to the funding of combatants by the USA, Saudi Arabia and their allies, and at least an internal acknowledgement that was what created ISIL in the first place. Russia should instead be authorised and funded by the UN to help enforce peace, and Russian troops should wear blue helmets. We then need a comprehensive peace deal which guarantees that the Assad regime will not pursue reprisal, and includes the return of the illegally occupied Golan Heights to Syria.

No other outcome can lead to a sustainable solution which can halt the flow of refugees compelled to leave their homeland. The first step towards such a deal must be a summit meeting between the western powers and Putin. Ideally, Ukraine should also be on the agenda. The obvious solution there is a major UN force followed, after a year of peace, by a genuine referendum on joining Russia in each of the various districts of Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea.

I am not crazy and I realise that none of this will happen. What will happen instead is that the West will intensify the civil war in both Syria and Ukraine. In Syria, the neo-cons of the Tory Party will ally with the Blairite Red Tories and the UK will join in, happily bombing away, killing thousands of civilians. Within three weeks of the parliamentary vote they will be massively bombing the Syrian army too because, we will be told, it is necessary to degrade Syrian ground defences to ensure the safety of our airmen. The flow of refugees will intensify.

One aspect of the refugee crisis nobody wishes directly to address is the ferocious grip that xenophobia and racism has on the cultures of Eastern Europe. This lies behind an interesting article in the Guardian by Irina Molodikova which sought to explain this in terms of resentment of historical conquest by the Ottoman Empire. That is a peculiarly Eastern European line of defence, but fails to wash as it goes nowhere to explain the rampant anti-semitism in countries like Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, nor the abuse suffered by black people.

I have personally witnessed extraordinary degrees of racism throughout Eastern Europe. It is a cultural trait common to the otherwise conflicting nationalisms of Poland and Russia. It should not be forgotten that Russia – which is again officially encouraging its citizens to breed as it needs population – is making no significant offer to accept Syrian refugees. I continually hear stories of the everyday experiences with violent racism and discrimination suffered by Uzbek workers in Russia.

I am conscious this lengthy article rambles through a number of major issues. But the problems we face are organic, complex and linked. Any neat analysis is bound to be false, and any neat dichotomy wrong. Those who believe “Putin Bad, West Good” or “West Bad, Putin Good” are fools, just as those who believe “Islam Good, Christians Bad” or “Christians Good, Islam Bad” are fools. We need a deeper understanding. We are about to face a deluge of war propaganda. A genuine understanding is the true defence against it.

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Total Bollocks From MI5

In the last decade, now 7/7 has dropped out of this statistic, only one person has been killed in the UK by an Islamic terrorist attack. Let me repeat that. In the last decade, one person has been killed in the UK by an Islamic terrorist attack. That unfortunate death was Lee Rigby.

Rigby’s tragic murder illustrated how easy it is for terrorists to commit an outrage. Two very disorganised Nigerian nutters murdered him with knives. Unfortunately, if a couple of nutters decide to go at someone on the street, they have a high chance of success.

Which is why you would have to be a lunatic actually to believe MI5’s repeated claims during the last decade that there are thousands of dedicated terrorists out there, fanatical determined and organised, but in a decade of constant effort they have succeeded in killing nobody else. There were, MI5 claim, six actual terrorist plots this year but fortunately MI5 saved all of us.

If you believe MI5’s stories, there are two possibilities. The first is that we have security services of a quite incredible efficiency, able to foil random terrorism, generally regarded as near impossible. The second is that we have thousands of dedicated terrorists of such incredible ineptitude that they can’t manage to kill anybody, even when they could choose any random undefended target in the entire UK and any method from knives to poison to hit and run to shooting to bombs, and don’t mind losing their own lives in the attempt. We have rubbish terrorists.

There is of course a third possibility – that these thousands of dedicated terrorists and these scores of foiled plots in the last decade were inventions, or at least the grossest exaggerations, by the security services. A number of fantasists have indeed been convicted and jailed. But the only, single, potential attacker in recent years who actually possessed a viable bomb was a British army soldier with a hatred of Muslims. And naturally he was not counted as nor convicted as a terrorist. Terrorists are Muslims.

The famous “liquid bomb plot”, in which it eventually transpired, unreported by mainstream media, that there were in fact no bombs and no plane tickets and the suspicious chemical found in baby bottles was Milton sterilising solution for baby bottles, is perhaps the best example.

But of course, lots of people are convicted of terrorism. Indeed law after law has stretched the definition of terrorism so far that I am almost certainly guilty of it just by publishing this blogpost. Meanwhile the Government is concentrating on bullying universities and students to ban speakers who say exactly the kind of thing I am writing here, speakers who protest against the detention and harassment of Muslims, and the continued policy of bombing Muslim countries and killing civilians.

Because there is almost no Islamic terrorism in the UK. It is virtually non-existent. It is not the true reason the corporate state wants ever more surveillance power, ever more restriction on freedom of speech and even, in universities, freedom of thought. Do not be fooled. Fight back.

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Rifkind and Straw: Guilty as Hell but Broke No Rules

It is evidence of what a sewer Westminster is, that the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has ruled that Straw and Rifkind broke no rules. The BBC and Sky are full of smug reporters telling us the two are “vindicated”.

They are not vindicated, they are disgusting.

What is revealed is that it is absolutely the norm for Tory and Blairite MPs to be firmly in the pockets of corporations, looking after corporate interests and receiving huge slabs of cash. Straw and Rifkind were just behaving like greedy grasping unprincipled bastards within the rules. How is that a vindication?

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SNP, Labour and Internal Democracy

Not even Turkmenistan, where the Glorious Leader renamed the days of the week after his family and bequeathed the Presidency to his dentist (who remains President) do they have a national anthem as ludicrously obsequious as the British. Furthermore, even North Korea’s anthem makes no mention of the ruling dynasty. I haven’t sung the British hymn to arse-licking since I was old enough to understand what it meant (about 13). As a British diplomat and Ambassador I used to do exactly what Corbyn did – stand silently. And I have done that while in the Queen’s company.

I was musing on the choices Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn made in the same circumstance, though it is more difficult when you are actually with the Queen, as Sturgeon was. Nobody wants to insult an old lady. And it led me to muse on a problem each has with party democracy, where again the approaches are different.

The SNP recently does not seem over-concerned with party democracy. Or to put it another way, it does not seem to have much party democracy. I have attended two party conferences, one in Perth and one in Glasgow, where there was absolutely no debate on policy issues. Leadership addresses dominated the agenda and almost every speaker called was a member of a parliament or an approved candidate. It does not seem the forthcoming Aberdeen conference will be much better. There will be no debate on the really interesting issues – NATO, the monarchy, currency post-independence, the single police force, privatisation of CALMAC. Remember, 90% of the party membership were not members when there was last a debate on any of these.

Rather the motions selected by the party gatekeepers range from the self-congratulatory to the anodyne, with only a small proportion selected which originated with constituency grassroots. The management is heavy-handed. Most notably, the party members will not be permitted to discuss the key question dominating Scottish politics – the second referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon has briefed the media that the SNP manifesto will set out the circumstances in which a second referendum may be held. In coordinated briefing, Blair Jenkins and others have been floating 2021. What is being made plain is that the leadership will decide, not the membership. That seems to me disrespectful to the 100,000 members of the Yes campaign who joined up and may be presumed to have an opinion.

I consider myself a party loyalist. Actually I am especially loyal because I keep supporting the SNP no matter how plain the SNP makes it that it does not want me. I believe the SNP is the necessary vehicle for independence. But there is a difference between a party loyalist and a leadership loyalist. Leadership loyalists reply that you cannot argue with success, and the SNP achieved massive victory at the Westminster elections, and is set to achieve massive victory at the Holyrood elections.

To which my response is, that I do not deny that autocracy can be a most effective means of gaining and maintaining power. But that does not make autocracy desirable. Some very bad people have been extremely good at gaining and holding power. It is not a proper measure of success.

It has become accepted within the SNP that the criterion for a second referendum is that there must be a “material change” in circumstances. But why is that the criterion? Apparently because Nicola Sturgeon said so. We didn’t vote on that. Now the argument becomes about defining that material change. I gather we still don’t know what it will be exactly, but we kind of know it will come about in six years time.

Apart from “material change” the other hackneyed phrase defining what passes for “debate” on the issue – and there is almost no debate on the issue in which ordinary SNP members are permitted to participate – is “when the Scottish people decide”. When I called a couple of months ago for a referendum in 2018, the internet was filled with leadership loyalists parroting no, it would be “when the Scottish people decide”. The problem with that concept is that it is unclear how the Scottish people are to express their decision. What is the mechanism for that? Is it psychic? What people really meant was “When Nicola decides the Scottish people have decided.”

I still want a second referendum in 2018. I believe we can win it. I am very confident the SNP will sweep the coming Holyrood elections. I am not so confident about the Holyrood election after that; it would be a brave prediction that the SNP trajectory will be ever upward. Stuff happens in politics.

Therefore we must go for a second referendum on the back of these forthcoming Holyrood elections; we might not have another chance after 2020. Besides which the unpopularity of the Etonian government in London continues to work in our favour. I don’t give a stuff about “material change”, but if you want to point to one, the SNP sweeping two elections is a “material change”. 2018 should be it.

There are people who I respect as genuine supporters of Scottish independence who would prefer to delay beyond 2020 or until they are “sure of winning”. Listen. You are never sure of winning. Politics can overturn orthodoxies. Jeremy Corbyn was a 200 to 1 shot. We will never have a better chance than now. Let’s go for it.

People can argue that I am wrong about the timing. But why can’t we do that? Argue? Debate? At conference? And have a democratic vote on the timing? Why is the SNP not a democracy?

Rather more worryingly, the degree of democratic space permitted within the SNP appears to vary according to which side you are on. Readers will recall that I have been twice refused vetting as an SNP parliamentary candidate, on the grounds that I refuse to accept I will tow the party line at all times. I was told very directly it is completely unacceptable for an MP or prospective MP to argue against the party line.

Yet here is an example of an MP – Angus Robertson – arguing directly against the democratically agreed party policy. In 2012 Angus Robertson gave many media interviews advocating membership of NATO, at a time when party policy was firmly against membership of NATO. I raised this precise example at my latest vetting refusal and was told that this was different; the party leadership was entitled to argue against party policy because they had a leadership role, and Angus Robertson had succeeded in winning a vote subsequently to overturn the policy at conference.

It seems to me self-evidently pernicious to develop a doctrine that the party leadership may ignore agreed policy, but nobody else may. Another interpretation may be, of course, that you can attack party policy from the right, but not from the left.

Back in January I argued that the SNP appeared to be a democratic centralist party, where policy was centrally decided but then everybody was forced rigidly to stick to it. I said strict democratic centralism was generally not accepted as part of mainstream political tradition in this country, but was generally considered as Stalinism.

But actually it seems it is worse than that. Policy is not democratically decided. Rather a leader is democratically elected, but then that leader makes up the policy, and everybody has to follow it. That is an even worse political system than democratic centralism, and is known as the Leadership Principle. I could have put that in German.

That is the SNP, of which I remain a loyal but long-suffering member.

In Labour, Jeremy Corbyn faces related problems of party governance and internal democracy, but of a rather different kind. Corbyn has the backing of a large majority of his members, but he has a right wing parliamentary party – in some instances quite astonishingly right wing – which is entirely out of step with both Corbyn and the membership.

We therefore had shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith saying today that Labour supported the benefits cap, and going on to say that Labour supported overall benefits cuts, and could not oppose benefits cuts when the public supported them. Smith appears not to have noticed that the debate in the leadership election had happened, or that he was putting forward precisely the argument that got Liz Kendall a humiliating 4.9% of the votes of party members.

After three days of the parliamentary party doing everything conceivable to undermine him, what I believe is Corbyn’s strategy is to institute reforms to party democracy whereby the members decide policy. He can then obtain clear party policies which he supports and demand the PLP support them. That includes on Trident, where the SNP continue to twist the knife as Corbyn is hamstrung by a parliamentary party absolutely owned by the corporatist agenda.

In the longer term, I just do not see how it can work. The only conceivable strategy for Corbyn to succeed is mass deselection of the right wing shills who constitute 70% of his MPs. But that process is incompatible with a working party at Westminster. I genuinely wish Jeremy, whom I know and respect, well. But I very much fear the Blairites have put the Labour Party as an institution well beyond saving.

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The Trade Union Bill

A government which claims the right to kill its own citizens with no judicial process on the basis of the vote of 24.4% of the qualified electorate, legislates that workers cannot strike without the support of 40% of their qualified electorate because strikes can inconvenience people. Not as inconvenient as being sliced to pulp by flying metal, I should have thought.

David Davis, a decent Tory, said that some of the provisions of the Trade Union bill are Francoist, and he was not exaggerating. You can read the dispassionate official analysis of the bill by Parliament staff here. One of least publicised yet appalling aspects of the bill is the arbitrary power given to an anti-strike witchfinder, the Certification Officer. He is specifically given the powers of the High Court to compel individuals to give evidence or produce documents, and to make arbitrary judgements.

That extreme authoritarian stance is reflected throughout the bill. It is more publicised that notice must be given of picketing, with names reported to the police and identifying armbands worn, with letters of authority from the union to be there which the Bill states must be produced not only to the Police but to anybody who asks on request. This gives employers a whole new avenue of harassment of strikers.

The provision that 14 days notice must be given of any strike is obviously designed to reduce the effectiveness of strike action. The right to bring in agency staff to replace agency workers is not in the Bill, but the parliamentary staff analysis indicates it is intended to bring that in under secondary legislation – power delegated to the Secretary of State. That obviously is designed to combine with the 14 day notice to make strikes ineffective. The regulation of what individuals say about the industrial dispute on social media is so repressive as to verge on the incredible.

It is obvious the Tory government serve the agenda of corporatism, pure and simple. But it is perhaps surprising they are so entirely open about it. If you do not have the chance to withdraw your Labour, you are a slave. In the days of real slavery in Jamaica, foremen or gangmasters were generally slaves themselves (as opposed to the southern United States where they were generally poor whites). Very often the black gangmasters were extremely brutal to the slaves under them, imparting floggings with gusto to try to cement themselves in the favour of their white masters.

That is the function that token Muslim Sajid Javid plays in this Conservative government, flogging the workers with more gusto than his Old Etonian masters would dare to do. Plus they wouldn’t want to get blood on their trousers. Javid is a most enthusiastic Uncle Tom determined to tick all the establishment boxes. He certified the Trade Union Bill as compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, when it is plainly in contravention of Article 11. But his most spectacular effort to fit in with his Tory masters came at the Conservative Friends of Israel where ignoring completely the terrible suffering, humiliation and repression of the Palestinian people, he declared

“Mr Javid, who described himself as a “proud British-born Muslim”, announced that if he had to leave Britain to live in the Middle East, then he would choose Israel as home. Only there, he said, would his children feel the “warm embrace of freedom and liberty”. For him, only Israel shared the democratic values of the UK.”

Sajid Javid promotes measures rightly called Francoist because he is a person it is perfectly reasonable to call a fascist.

Sajid Javid Hankers After "Israel's Warm Embrace"

Sajid Javid Hankers After “Israel’s Warm Embrace”

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Selective Indignation

For his first nine years as Prime Minister, Tony Blair appointed NO women to any of the “Great offices of state” over which Corbyn is under such concerted media fire. And he had many less women in his shadow cabinet and cabinet. Yet there was virtually no media comment at all, and none of this line of right wing “feminists” lambasting him.

Explain.

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Guest Post by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg

Project Corbyn, that astonishing tidal wave movement of a tiny minority of hard left activists and other entryists which swept Labour into the ocean of unrealistic economic policy and unelectable beliefs, has run aground within 48 hours on the issue of alphabetical discrimination.

Many senior Labour sources have, within the last hour, told me that Corbyn had proved he was out of touch and a complete throwback to the 1930’s by his appointment of a shadow cabinet consisting of “old people from the start of the alphabet.”

Most people believe it has been a terrific mistake to appoint a shadow cabinet dominated overwhelmingly by people whose names begin with just the first few letters of the alphabet. Is Corbyn totally unaware of the identity politics of the modern media, many are asking. One very senior former Labour Cabinet Minister told me “Look at the key figures here. Abbott, Benn, Burnham, Corbyn. That is four of the most important posts and it doesn’t take you past the first three letters of the alphabet. This is disgusting and Labour MPs simply may not put up with it. Eagle does not take us much further and her first name is Angela. Why was there no space for Umunna?”

This kind of whispering from his own benches has the ability to undermine the completely unelectable Corbyn. A great many anonymous people have told me they were hopeful that Watson would provide balance, but these hopes were dashed by the appointment of Abbott.

Significantly I tried to query John MacDonnell on this but the aged terrorist supporter kept talking about income inequality and seeking completely to avoid the genuine issues which are worrying so many formerly very important Labour MPs, and so many in the media, today.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior former Labour Prime Minister told me “I predicted the Labour Party would fall off a cliff and they ignored me. Corbyn will be out by Christmas.” It does seem that the unelectable Corbyn, who refused to answer questions on alphabet balance, has no answers to these key questions.

Laura Kuenssberg, BBC

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Decoding New Labour

The odious Charles Clarke states on Radio 4 that Labour MPs will develop “their own alternative” to the economic policy of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. What he means is that Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Lord Sainsbury and the private healthcare firms will continue to push their interest through bought and paid for New Labour MPs.

Just thought I would decode that one for you.

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The BBC is Irredeemable

As I get older and I see the institutions of British society twisted and distorted to fit the extreme neo-liberal agenda, I find myself advocating all kinds of responses which I would have found anathema even a decade below. One f these is that I definitely believe that the BBC should be abolished as a public funded institution, and the BBC poll tax (aka license fee) abolished.

The extent of BBC bias during the referendum campaign was breathtaking. I have worked, and specifically reported on the media, in dictatorships which had a less insidious and complete bias than the BBC has against Scottish independence. The relentless anti-Corbyn propaganda shows that the BBC exists to reinforce the neo-liberal narrative at all costs, both at home and abroad. Laura Kuenssberg achieved levels of disdain and ridicule in her report on Shadow Cabinet appointments this evening that ought to disqualify her forever from employment anywhere but Fox News. This was followed by “Reporting Scotland” and a long propaganda piece against the idea of a second referendum, replete with lies about pledges of “once in a lifetime”.

I do not think in the 21st Century we need a state broadcaster. If you want right wing propaganda, you can watch it on Murdoch, without paying a compulsory tax for it. I don’t want to watch baking, “celebrities” I have never heard of dancing, or people abseiling to win a holiday in Jamaica. If I did, I am sure I could find someone to provide it commercially.

The more worthwhile parts of the BBC’s output could be maintained or commissioned as arts spending and broadcast on commercial or internet platforms. You do not actually need a state broadcaster to have symphony orchestras and just a minute.

Even the Tories are occasionally right about something, and they are right that the BBC is a hugely bloated organisation, with 107 bureaucrats who earn over 100,000 and 23 who earn over 200,000. Forget all the ideas about reform. Just chuck the worthless bunch out on the street.

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People’s Quantitive Easing

The media is astonishing today in its barrage against Jeremy Corbyn. Presenters repeatedly state that to oppose nuclear weapons and foreign wars is “weak”, as though that were undeniable. Spending quantitive easing on public infrastructure is “inflationary” and “irresponsible” – and these are the presenters not the guests. Why simply handing quantitive easing money to the bankers is not inflationary or irresponsible is not explained.

I would claim to have got there on “people’s quantitive easing” before hearing that phrase. 42 months ago I published

It is beyond doubt true that the effect of creation of new money is to reduce the value of currency already in circulation. The effects will show through in inflation and the exchange rate. Of course, those will continue to be affected by other factors as well, which is why there are better and worse times to do it. But in effect Q.E. is still a transfer of wealth from those who hold any of the currency to those given the new stuff. In other words, more cash from you to the bankers.

Actually if QE had been used genuinely to stimulate the economy it would have been a marvellous thing. With £350 billion we could have built an enormous amount of social housing on brownfield sites, converted derelict high streets into housing, built the Severn barrage and a high speed rail link from London to Aberdeen and still have had change. We could have reopened the steel industry to do it. a thousand manufacturing firms could have been re-tooled. Millions could have been employed. The entire logic of economic depression could have been turned around.

Instead we gave more cash to the bankers.

Progressive opinion catches up with me eventually. In another decade or more likely two, mainstream journalists might catch up as well.

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