Monthly Archives: August 2016


Peak Craig Murray

My mother, Poppy Catherine Murray, nee Grice, passed away on 19 August aged 85 after a two year fight with multiple myeloma cancer. She had maintained herself in her own home until the last six weeks, and when she was eventually in hospital my brothers, sister and I took turns and were able between us to make sure that somebody was always with her. I last saw her on 14 August, and she never regained consciousness after that.

We faced the agonising decision of whether to come up and run the Doune the Rabbit Hole festival from 19 to 21 August. My son Jamie is Director, I run the bars and my brother Stuart supervises security. The festival is on a shoestring anyway and would genuinely have difficulty coping at if we dropped out at the last minute. It sounds a cliche, but we had no doubt Mum would have wanted us to go ahead with it, and we did so, leaving Neil and especially Celia to look after Mum. She finally passed away at 4.15pm on the Friday and we got the news literally as the gates to the arena opened.

I am sure many of you know from your own experience what a staggering blow it is, no matter how expected. Jamie was particularly struck. But the intensity of working through the festival was helpful – as usual I got a total of 7 hours sleep in 72 and Jamie probably less. The build, festival and takedown are extremely intense and this blog always disappears for ten days at this time.

Despite appalling weather, the festival was an enormous success and extremely well reviewed. I have always described it as life-affirming, and I could not have been surrounded by better people at a time of loss. The Scotsman review I think summed it up very well:

There is little doubt that Doune the Rabbit Hole is something special; a festival which is family friendly, extremely well-programmed and bearing a strong sense of localism in terms of its suppliers and its responsibilities.

And I was glad that the Herald noticed this:

Most mainstream festivals come under fire for routinely male-dominated programming, and could take a leaf from DTRH’s Sunday night line-up alone.

After two days assisting with the takedown, I left to go down to Norfolk again to make funeral arrangements and start to sift through my mother’s things. There can be no more lonely task in life, and the pain of looking through literally thousands of photos still lingers. A mother loves unconditionally. There were moments of joyous celebration brought back to life, wonderful times with grandparents and others long gone. There was a brilliant photo of my grandfather aged six, in an extravagantly braided costume, standing proudly with his drum in a Salvation Army band, his father beside him with his cornet. There were several photos of my mother’s beloved elder brother, who died aged just nineteen fighting against fascism. But most heart-wrenching were the photos which meant something to my mother but nothing to me, long ago people and places I did not recognise, memories now forever gone. And of course I was faced with my own life, stark and unedited, detailed minutely in 57 years of lovingly collected photographs. Neglected relationships, half forgotten friends, ex partners and so many people to whom I should have been nicer or whom I could have helped more.

I think I now have got to kick on with life.

We seem to be hitting peak Craig Murray. Before the hiatus of the last month or so, 40,000 people were regularly reading this blog and some entries were being seen by hundreds of thousands on this and other sites. My brief and simple demolition of Owen Smith is one of the posts that over a million people read, was massively retweeted and I think I can realistically claim had an early impact on the leadership contest. Indeed the general upsurge of interest in non neo-liberal thinking seems to have got me “discovered” by a whole new political generation and it has been an enormous pleasure to see evidence of people looking through the back catalogue of eleven years of posts on this little blog.

The film “The Killing of Tony Blair” turned out very much better than I expected. I really enjoyed it and have been very heartened by the large number of messages of congratulation I have received on my own contribution to it. Still closer to my heart, the documentary film “London Calling”, on the shocking BBC bias in the Scottish Independence referendum, has today been completed and I hope to have distribution information for you shortly.

The film rights to “Murder in Samarkand” have just been renewed, there is a new script and we now have very experienced and top rank producers, and while I do not wish to count chickens, we are closer to the film being made than ever before.

On Friday I am giving a talk to Edinburgh West SNP at 19.30 at Munro Community Centre, Clermiston and I am happy to say that this is just the start of what looks like a busy autumn of campaigning for independence.

Over seven years of effort came to an end on Friday when I signed off the final map for my new book “Sikunder Burnes – Master of the Great Game”, which will now be published on 22 September. It is being printed right now, which is exciting.

I never did get a chance to expand as promised on my thoughts about Chilcot, but this interview in Jacobin magazine did an excellent job in bringing out the observations which I was uniquely qualified to make from personal experience. I do urge you to read it.

On 24 September I shall be in Washington DC to present the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity to John Kiriakou. It is typical of Obama and Clinton’s America that despite all Obama’s false election promises, the only man to go to jail over the CIA’s acknowledged torture and extraordinary rendition programmes was the whistleblower John Kiriakou, jailed for revealing state secrets.

Then on 20 October I have been summoned to appear before the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee to give evidence upon the same subject.

Finally, the apparent demise of President Karimov has meant that temporarily even the BBC has had to acknowledge my existence and I have a whole raft of mainstream media interviews lined up for tomorrow.

It has been a very difficult period for me and I am rebounding from it straight into peak Craig Murray. I would like to reiterate once more that everybody who participates in commenting on this blog is equally welcome and valued, and those who disagree with me are just as welcome as those who agree. The whole reason I do this is to stimulate thinking outside the Overton window, not to attempt to impose my own ideas.

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A Moment of Hope

The apparent end to the power of my old adversary Islam Karimov gives a brief moment of hope for change in Uzbekistan.

It is worth recalling that Karimov was a member of the last Soviet politburo, and was a part of the failed hard line “communist” coup against Gorbachev. His support for Uzbek independence was both a matter of self-preservation and a successful endeavour to sustain the massively corrupt system that enabled a few families to pillage Uzbekistan’s great natural wealth. Tashkent was already famously corrupt in Soviet times; Karimov increased this and concentrated the wealth in an ever smaller circle, while personal freedoms were higher in the Soviet period than now.

There is no telling if Karimov is already dead or not, but a massive stroke has with certainty ended his rule. There is much speculation on what happens next. The one thing we can be quite certain will not happen is a free and fair election of a successor.

The formal process, presided over by the speaker of parliament, is an irrelevance to the power grab that is going on and depends on control of the army, the separate Ministry of the Interior armed forces, the police and the security services. By common consent Rustam Inoyatov is a key kingmaker, and for the last two years Prime Minister Mirzaeyev has been carefully cementing this alliance. Mirzaeyev is probably the most ruthless of all the candidates – he is as cold-blooded a killer as Karimov, and I suspect this quality will bring him through.

Mirzaeyev comes from the same Samarkand power base as Karimov, but he faces a difficult balancing act in ensuring nobody else has any power to challenge him, while at the same time placating powerful Tashkent and Ferghana interests. If Mirzaeyev can gain the support of the Gafur Rakhimov/Alisher Usmanov mafia nexus he will probably be home and dry. But to emphasise how complex and vicious this will be, when the Alisher Usmanov/Mirzaeyev family relationship was due to be cemented in 2013 by a marriage alliance featuring Usmanov’s nephew and heir Babur Usmanov, the groom was killed in a “car crash” at the behest of Inoyatov. This murder was probably just a friendly reminder that Inoyatov cannot be cut out, and one Mirzaeyev seems to have heeded, but underlines the potential for it all to go violently wrong.

So how can this be hopeful? Well, quite simply things can only get better. Whoever takes over is unlikely to want immediately to rush into the arms of one of Uzbekistan’s three suitors, the USA, China and Russia. There is a reasonable chance that they will wish to portray themselves as having a reform agenda, in order to keep the USA and to some extent Russia interested. Putin never viewed Karimov as more than an embarrassment. Indeed, almost every potential President except Mirzaeyev does have an inkling that the deliberate stifling of all economic initiative and the enslavement of the country to a cotton monoculture is not a good policy.

Finally a message to Karimov, my old sparring partner. You won, you kept power and I lost, and got sacked for my pains. But then I am not dead, and when I am I shall not go to Hell. Good luck with that. Craig

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Let’s Rename Housing Benefit more fairly as “Landlord Bonus”.

So-called “Housing benefit” is of zero benefit to tenants. It is a massive flow of taxpayer cash to landlords – an incredible £25 billion per year. It plays a pivotal role in the growth of landlordism and the bubbling of house prices to well beyond the pockets of most young people.

It is argued on the right of politics that rent controls would be an unwarranted interference that would distort the housing market and prevent it operating efficiently. Yet housing benefit is itself a massive distortion, allowing landlords to charge rents far beyond what the market would ordinarily bear. If the state is to pay or top-up rents in this way, the state must also have a right to interfere in the level of rents.

For the sake of clarity of argument, I do not regard “Housing Associations” as anything but part of the landlord class, especially given the high salaries they pay their executives.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have recently argued for a rent control solution – and in Jeremy Corbyn’s case he believes it. That would certainly be a vast improvement on the present situation. But my own view is that it is illogical to boost rents by a massive transfer of taxpayer cash to landlords by housing benefit, and then seek a second mechanism to control them.

Housing benefit should simply be abolished. The results would be the collapse of the buy to let market and the bankruptcy of some of the least lovely people in the country, a crash in rents, and the pricking of the UK’s property bubble, where homes are priced in much of the UK at 8 to 12 times average salary.

The abolition would need to be accompanied by a one year moratorium on all evictions until the market settles down and rents can be renegotiated. I do not rule out rent controls as part of the new arrangements to govern the market.

It is worth pointing out that as housing benefit is taken from general taxation, and as London accounts for an obscenely disproportionate percentage of housing benefit paid, it represents yet another hidden area where London sucks the wealth from the rest of the country.

Housing benefit is not actually a “benefit” to the needy at all. Have you ever wondered why the Tories make zero concerted efforts to cut this “benefit”, when they are so keen on driving disabled people to suicide and sanctioning the unemployed?

It is because housing “benefit” is the UK’s biggest con, a direct subsidy from the taxpayers to the very wealthy.

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The Dysfunctional United Kingdom

Recently an Angus mother of three infant children was separated from them and jailed for ten months for over-claiming £10,000 per year in benefits. Meanwhile the Duke of Westminster evades £3.6 billion in inheritance tax through a transparently fraudulent use of trusts which “have the option” to give the money to someone else instead.

The United Kingdom is a socially backward and sometimes vicious polity, an island which prides itself on the state enforced conservatism which allowed it to evade intellectually motivated reform and retain a historical legacy of gross injustice and privilege.

For historical reasons land reform is an immensely popular cause in Scotland, and one of so many areas where SNP timidity is a deep, deep disappointment. The fact that they are covered in buildings does not make the vast London estates of the Grosvenors any more acceptable than the unnecessarily empty Highland estates where golden eagles are destroyed so the chinless wonders, hedge fund managers and sheikhs can blast away at tame grouse.

The late Duke of Westminster is characterised as a “philanthropist” by mainstream media even though the percentage of both his income and his wealth he gave to charity was less than most ordinary people’s mite, myself included, and I am willing to bet that what he did do, was tax-deductible. That a parasite who sat on £9 billion of unearned money in a country where disabled people commit suicide from poverty, and who got two O levels from Harrow, was Prince Charles’ closest friend, cuts through the lying propaganda about the Royal family we are constantly fed.

The political class have a deliberate will not to enforce inheritance tax on the super wealthy. They have a political will not to tackle landlordism, which as it affects both residential and commercial tenants is a fundamental malaise of the British economy. Neither problem is technically difficult. The problem is that the political class as a whole are in the pockets of the super-wealthy, promote their interests and ache to join them.

Which is why in the UK it is important that the threat to them posed by Corbyn is maintained, and why in Scotland it is essential that the SNP membership now push their own leadership into bold action on fundamental land reform and Independence. To call the current SNP approach to both issues desultory would be excessively polite.

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The Cynicism of Hillary

Hillary Clinton’s completely unfounded claim that Russia was behind the passing to WikiLeaks of Democratic National Committee documents was breathtakingly cynical. It was a successful ploy in that it gave her supporters, particularly those dominating mainstream media, something else to focus on other than the fact that the DNC had been busily fixing the primaries for Hillary.

It was however grossly irresponsible – an accusation that a US Secretary of State would hesitate to make in public even at the height of the Cold War. It raises further the tensions between the World’s two largest nuclear armed powers, and plays into the mood of rampant Russophobia which we are seeing whipped up daily in the press. With the Ukraine and Syria as points of major tension, to throw such an accusation wildly in defence of her own political ambitions, shows precisely why Hillary should never be US President.

This is all the more true as not only did Hillary have no evidence of Russian involvement, she almost certainly knows the allegation is completely baseless.

Which brings me to the curious murder of Seth Rich, the DNC staffer killed by an armed street robber who left Rich’s gun, watch, cash and wallet. WikiLeaks have offered an award of US $20,000 for information on his assassination. This does not indicate that it was Rich who leaked the emails. It does indicate that WikiLeaks are aware of profound shenanigans involving the Hillary campaign, and are putting effort and resources into piecing together the picture.

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Doune the Rabbit Hole 19-21 August

As regular readers know, this blog is intimately connected to the Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival. I always enjoy meeting many of you there in the eponymous Whistleblower bar, and this year the tremendous moral uplift I personally get from our pop-up community will be more welcome than ever, after a difficult few weeks coping with family illness.

There are a couple of short videos from last year which capture the eclectic atmosphere brilliantly. In this first one you get to glimpse Nadira at 1.34, evidently enjoying the music!

While this second one by Stirling Council I think encapsulates the extraordinary charm

I am obliged to note in passing that we are challenged financially this year as Creative Scotland have withdrawn our £15,000 grant for no sensible reason. Yet they continue to fund other far more commercial and far less artistically innovative festivals. Which is even more reason for you to come.

I shall as ever be running the bars, having found a niche in which I am competent.

dounebar

If you can’t afford to buy a ticket, we still need volunteers, both for the festival dates and immediately. Please contact [email protected] It is just as much fun if you are working!

I can honestly say that nobody who has come through this blog, either just to enjoy the festival or to volunteer, has ever told me they found the experience less than uplifting. I look forward to seeing you – and don’t forget to buy the barman a pint!

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