Winning the Playwrights’ Vote 102

I am very honoured that Alan Bennett wrote, and has now published, that he would have voted for me. From his 2005 diary

25 April Keep being rung by journalists asking how I intend to vote, information which I don’t divulge not because I’ve got any principled notions to do with the secret ballot but because I like disappointing newspapers. If I were a voter in the Blackburn constituency my vote would go to Craig Murray, the ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, who resigned from the diplomatic service over the foreign secretary’s refusal to discount information obtained by torture in the prisons of Uzbekistan, a decision that means torture is likely to continue. If there is a market for the information why should it stop? Mr [Jack] Straw claims to have lost sleep over his decision. Some of the tortured will have lost sleep, too, but that’s because they will have lost fingernails first. I suppose I despise Straw more than Blair, thinking, perhaps wrongly, that he is capable of better.

8 July Shocked that after the initial horror my first reaction to the Tube and bus bombings should be “How convenient” and at how little of what we are told I now believe. As Blair lines up in front of his sombre colleagues at Gleneagles it’s hard not to think how useful this outrage is and how effectively it silences the critics. And as Bush and Blair trot out their vapid platitudes about “the War on Terror”, give or take a few score of dead it’s hard not to think things are well under control. No one as yet suggests or speculates that this new front in “the War on Terror” might have been avoided had the country not gone to war in the first place. Only yesterday the Guardian reprinted an LRB piece revealing how Iraq had been fleeced of billions of dollars via Paul Bremer’s so-called aid programme – the figures those of US auditors whose reports have passed without notice. Except that they’re maybe even now being read by some burning-eyed youth planning more and worse.

I have been extremely fortunate in enjoying the friendship of great playwrights. I had a late relationship with Harold Pinter which meant a great deal to me; he wrote a cover quote for Murder in Samarkand
on a restaurant menu when we were both pretty pissed. David Hare spent time with me and researching me before writing his radio play, and we still send occasional mutual encouragement. Robin Soans has been extremely supportive and great company, and now we have this from Alan Bennett. You can jeer at me now for pseudo-intellectual drivel, but I think playwrights enjoy people who are imperfect, and that is why we get on. Paragons can be so boring.

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102 thoughts on “Winning the Playwrights’ Vote

  • Sharp Ears

    He is brilliant and I think there is huge affection for him and great appreciation of his work. His take on things is based on close observation.

    I am reading his book, Untold Stories, at the moment! It contains his diaries from 1996-2004.

  • Ben

    Add name-dropping to your human chinks in the armor. Hillary had some bona fides for a time as well.

      • Ben

        You may find that upward trending narcissism helps with your next effort. But be sure to complete your visit before Donald becomes POTUS. He may be concerned y’all might burn the White House down again.

    • glenn_uk

      At least I know I’m in good company, upon receiving insults from this particularly thuggish example of the Ugly American.

  • Brianfujisan


    That’s the Thing. You Merit Praise..I loved reading from the heart, Such Honesty ‘ Murder in Samarkand ‘ What a wee Warrior

    P.S Ta for Signing the Book 🙂

  • Clark

    “If there is a market for the information why should it stop?”

    Craig, the very first time I met you, in Portcullis House before the JCHR hearing, you said something along the lines that you thought you’d worked out what you were going to say, that the government’s policy was creating a market for torture.

  • bevin

    Bennett probably expected better from Straw because he was from Leeds.
    If he had been younger he would have known of Straw when he was at Leeds University, President of the NUS and already, in his early twenties, everything that he was to become.
    I believe that his poor old father, who named him after the famous peasant rebel, was a lifelong fighter for the working class.

    • Old Mark


      I doubt that Bennett would ever refer to Jack Straw as being ‘from Leeds’ on the basis of his time at the University there, and nothing else. Straw is a shabby genteel northern home counties sort of guy- a million miles away from a proud Yorkshireman.

      Craig is quite entitled to bask in the approval he’s obtained unsolicited from Harold Pinter, a deserved Nobel Laureate, and Alan Bennett, an acute and sensitive writer and, in his younger days, a brilliant physical comic, as this classic sketch he did with Jonathan Miller demonstrates-

      • Old Mark

        And basking in the approval of eminent near contemporaries is surely a birthday treat that cannot be denied!

  • giyane

    At the time you created the phrase ‘creating a market for torture’ you knew that you were using neo-con brain-slobber orgy=speak viz market. You knew it would be hard for the old farts to resist the logic of their own intellectual-methane.

    Unfortunately, the market suffered the most enourmous blow-back in 2008, worthy of Sirte or Baghdad or Bonfire Night. A rubbery David Cameron smoothed the market something wrong with the timing of the ignition problem with sloppy dollops of working tax credit. Theresa May has just 2 cards left to play, as you have so rightly pointed out in recent posts , racism and one-nation Toryism.

    In order to reach the sensory glands of the nether regions of present-day old farts, you would have to coin a new phrase, like Flexit, to indicate with morality the many shades of between black and white. They could then scan the topic of torture from the most moral, most black and white interpretation to the most blurred realpolitik. Their glumnesses could then retire a little buttered and flattered to their inevitable conclusion that the truth had to be buried. But answer came there none, And that was scarcely odd, Because they’d eaten every one .

    • Habbabkuk

      Lighten up for Heaven’s sake, Guano – and stop using every single fucking thread (whatever its theme) as a vehicle for your obsessional droppings. Always the same ravings, delivered without regard for the blog’s owner and readers in general. You are a crashing BORE.

        • Habbabkuk

          That’s you, surely?

          The bloke who keeps asking for quotes that Diane Abbott is (correction: was, until she sent her own son to one) firmly against fee-paying schools despite the fact that it is inconceivable that a far-lefter (as was) of her stripe could not have been against them?

          Get over it, “socialist” politicians are known for sending their children to fee-paying schools while taking stance against them on public.

          Why, it appears that even Greek firebrand Mr Alexis Tsipras’s children attend a (expensive) fee-paying school. 🙂

          • Hmmm

            You can’t stop yourself, can you? Going on about her again! Chemical castration is the only cure…

          • Habbabkuk


            Err…was it not you who mentioned Diane Abbott first?

            Your post at 15h16 refers.


  • J

    When you’re being hammered by the right and left (recent criticism) you’re probably doing something right. When the hammering gets heavier, you’re probably becoming more effective.

    Keep it up!

  • MJ

    Is Julian Assange Ok? Apparently WikiLeaks has released the “dead man’s switch” for the encrypted archives.

        • Alan

          The story is in one of those papers that RoS hates us posting from 🙂

          Story is he’s not dead but his internet connection has been cut!

  • John Goss

    Sorry to interrupt this thread but this is massive and has never been done before. Wikileaks has dumped a whole load of unanalysed data. One message is that sever consequences will take place against Ecuador if they do not dispose of Assange. Another one says John Kerry has instructed the Brits to storm the embassy.

    • John Goss

      Somebody who knows about encryption will be able to explain what the insurance keys are and how they apply to the dumped data. There has been a cyber-attack on Wikileaks which has implemented contingency measures. A dead man switch may have been triggered and it is not know whether Julian Assange is dead or alive at this moment in time.

      • Habbabkuk

        “..and it is not know whether Julian Assange is dead or alive at this moment in time”


        Calm down dear ! You’re letting your imagination run away with you again.

        BTW – a “moment” is always temporal ; no need therefore to say “moment in time”.

    • John Goss

      In a further attempt to stifle the real news it is reported on RT that all its UK bank accounts have been blocked. What’s happening?

      • John Goss

        When the bank accounts of Moazzam Begg and Cage and other muslim individuals and organisations had their bank accounts closed I warned that this could happen to anyone. You had better start getting worried.

      • John Goss

        Through The Duran I have discovered that it is the National Westminster Bank which has closed RT’s accounts. Don’t we (the people) have a stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (of which the National Westminster Bank is a part)? That being so should we not have a say in whether banking facilities should be provided to a TV News provider which is much less biased than the others?

        • MJ

          “Don’t we (the people) have a stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (of which the National Westminster Bank is a part)?”

          The government certainly has some leverage over RBS because it is a major shareholder.

        • DomesticExtremist

          Perhaps RBS is in Deutsche Bank related trouble and needs to call in debts…

          Don’t, whatever you do, run down there and withdraw all your money. It could start a bank run.

      • RobG

        Very worrying developments. Ain’t the ‘Free World’ great.

        Hopefully, the recent frenzy of war propaganda is being used as an excuse to move against Assange and RT, and not an indication that the lunatics in Washington are actually going to start a hot war with Russia.

          • glenn_uk

            Obviously, a double for Rod Stewart would have to have a double of his current girlfriend too – what would be the point otherwise?

        • lysias

          Speaking of doubles, it actually came out in the news that Bill Clinton had a double when he was president. When the real Bill Clinton was traveling from India to Pakistan on a state visit late in his presidency, he allowed photographs to be taken of what was apparently Bill Clinton boarding Air Force One. It later came out that, as a security measure, the real Bill Clinton made the trip in a Learjet, and the person who boarded Air Force One was a double.

          I have read in a book about Lyndon Johnson that he had a lookalike cousin whom he used as a double (and who later died a suspicious death after he talked too freely). LBJ’s mistress Madeleine Brown claimed that she and LBJ attended a party at an oil baron’s mansion in Dallas the night before JFK was assassinated at which LBJ delivered what could be recognized after the fact as a prediction of the assassination (“After tomorrow, those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again. That’s no threat. That’s a promise.”) The problem is, photos exist of LBJ in a hotel in nearby Fort Worth at the very time the party is supposed to have occurred, and this is normally regarded as refutation of Brown’s claim. But the existence of a double could explain away the discrepancy.

          Indeed, one wonders how much use other presidents have made of doubles.

      • Old Mark

        Hey Rob we’re comparing literary hobnobbing here, not celeb spotting, so here’s my 2pees worth-

        Back in the 70s I once hitched a ride out of Whitstable with Booker Prizewinning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. The guy offering the lift offered to sell us some weed before we crossed the Medway, but we were both short of funds and had to decline his offer.


    • Sharp Ears

      The only famous person I have seen close up was the Queen Mother. She was in one of those golf buggies at Sandown Park races and resembled a waxwork. As she waved to her adoring public, her moving arm looked as if it was mechanised. LOL

    • Habbabkuk

      I think I saw Jim Morrison the other day, with Elvis Presley.

      All sane, rational people who can see through the fog of establishment and MSM lies know that they are alive and well, although perhaps a little less spry than before.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    I like Alan Bennett, and would like his vote if I ever thought of running for office in the most corrupt, overly aggressive Anglo-American world, but I never would.

    Just look at the most destructive, hypocritical way it is involved in retaking Mosul where over 1.5 million resident lives are put at risk, and Washington is putting as many of its troops on the ground as Isis has as defenders while they continue to complain about what the Syrian government, with Russian assistance, is doing in Aleppo.


    • lysias

      Do you consider the mainstream media with which RT competes wholly nonpartisan, self-denying, and objective?

      • lysias

        George Galloway speaking now on RT about the attempted shutdown. He says it’s a result of how many people are now watching RT.

        • Ba'al Zevul

          If peoples’ champion and Russian subject Gorgeous Yuri Gallovitch had accepted substantial sums of money for appearing on the BBC to denigrate Mother Russia, he would have had a nasty accident with an umbrella or be dangerously radioactive by now.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        No. Silly question. But I fail to see why Russian state media is treated as the word of God round here. Let’s have some even-handedness. RT’s a propaganda station, pure and simple. Just like the BBC.

        • lysias

          Surely there’s a great difference between not being “wholly nonpartisan, self-denying, and objective” and being “a propaganda station, pure and simple.”

          There is, after all, as the BBC itself discovered during World War Two (and as it seems now to have forgotten) that there is great propaganda value in being truthful for the most part, and only state propaganda pure and simple on matters of great importance to the politicians and powers that be.

          Nowadays, it’s RT that does that

          • Ba'al Zevul

            Certainly. RT has wisely adopted the BBC model of telling the truth when it suits what it is told is the national interest, and lying through its teeth when it isn’t. Much more than the BBC, it and its satellites and spinoffs (many of which are cited by credulous commenters here, who don’t bother to check their affinity) have become adept at riding the wave of antiestablishment feeling in the West. It’s harder to exploit Russian dissent in the same way – not much of it is permitted.

            If Russians were aware of the grand larceny which has taken place – the bulk appropriation of State-owned assets by friends of the regime who have grown as rich as any oligarch in the West, perhaps it would be easier to spread anger and despondency as efficiently as RT. But I look forward to seeing the Moscow Chorus emoting as stridently about inequality in Russia as it does about the victims of our own economic disaster area.

        • fwl

          Exactly. People should be able to access all propaganda, but remember it is propaganda. It is all too easy to believe one’s state is lying to one, which of course it will do albeit sometimes indirectly, and then upon finding an ounce of truth else fall for the pound of BS.

      • Habbabkuk

        “..wholly nonpartisan, self-denying, and objective”

        You’ve got Mr George Galloway down to a t .

        No wonder he comments on RT. 🙂

    • John Goss

      Yes we already know your bigoted views Ba’al about RT though I doubt you ever watch it. They are the same views you once held about combined harvesters in Ukraine being a Russian invasion. 🙂

  • Sharp Ears

    Jonathan Cook. Short and sweet from Nazareth.

    Guardian front page channels Orwell’s 1984
    October 17th, 2016

    Reading the “liberal” press has become a truly Orwellian experience. What was true yesterday is a lie today. What was black today will be white tomorrow. Two reports on today’s front page of the Guardian could easily be savage satire straight from the pages of the novel 1984.

    Report one: The Guardian provides supportive coverage
    of the beginning of a full-throttle assault by Iraqi forces, backed the US and UK, on Mosul to win it back from the jihadists of ISIS – an assault that will inevitably lead to massive casualties and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population.

    Report two: The Guardian provides supportive coverage
    of the US and UK for considering increased sanctions against Syria and Russia. On what grounds? Because Syrian forces, backed by Russia, have been waging a full-throttle assault on Aleppo to win it back from the jihadists of ISIS and Al-Qaeda – an assault that has led to massive casualties and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population.

    Remember, as was prophesied: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”

    • Habbabkuk

      It is greatly to the credit of Israel, the only democratic, pluralistic country in the Middle East (certainly as far as Israel itself is concerned and as for the West Bank, with a far better record than many other countries occupying other territory) that Mr Jonathan Cook is left in peace to pursue his journalistic activities, aimed largely against Israel.

      No censorship, no attempts to kill him, no seizing and imprisoning, no black arts deployed against him as far as we know. He would not get the same treatment if he were in any number of neighbouring Arab states.

      • RobG

        Habba said: “No censorship, no attempts to kill him, no seizing and imprisoning, no black arts deployed against him as far as we know. He would not get the same treatment if he were in any number of neighbouring Arab states.

        Particularly in vile regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are some of our closest allies in the region and to whom we sell a huge amounts of arms, as well as providing technical and logistical support so that they can bomb the feck out of places like Yemen.

      • Sharp Ears

        Assuming that to be true, how kind. Shame about their treatment of the Palestinians, including children. There are 414 in jail as at the end of April 2016 having been tried in military courts.

        Statistics on Palestinian minors in the custody of the Israeli security forces
        Updated: 9 Sep 2016
        At the end of April 2016, 414 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 13 administrative detainees. Another 7 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. The IPS considers these minors – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders. The following figures were provided by the Israeli military and the IPS.

        The IPS has not forwarded data to B’Tselem since May 2016, despite repeated requests

        (plus graph and comparison tables)

        • Sharp Ears

          ‘JG: Since you live in Nazareth, you’re in a rather unique position as a journalist sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. Considering that the Israeli government is not reluctant to arrest, censor, or deny entry to those fundamentally opposed to its policies, how have you survived professionally in Israel for so long?

          JC: There are two reasons. First, I really am no threat to Israel, so why would it risk drawing attention to my work by making an example of me? Like other journalists whose reporting challenges the official consensus on Israel, I am excluded from the mainstream media. I write either on the Internet for Western readers who already know things are bad here (hopefully I can fill in some of the details they don’t fully grasp) or for the Arab media, which most Westerners regard as unreliable. Early on it looked briefly as if I might break out of this ghetto. I started writing commentaries for The International Herald Tribune, a sort of globally syndicated version of The New York Times. Israel’s lobby groups in the US moved into action very quickly, getting their foot soldiers to write complaints to the newspaper on a scale the paper had apparently never seen before (nor probably since). I was soon dropped. Israel really doesn’t need to exert that kind of pressure itself: there are lots of organizations doing this stuff very successfully on its behalf.

          The second reason is that I am married to an Israeli citizen, even if one from the Palestinian minority, and I therefore have Israeli residency. If Israel tried to bar me from the country, I would have a right of appeal to the courts. The law would almost certainly be on my side, mainly because I am a Westerner (it would be different were I a Palestinian or Arab) and because it would be difficult to show I posed any sort of security threat.’

      • Ba'al Zevul

        Glad to see you conceding that it is an occupation. And that it is still the West Bank rather than ‘Judaea and Samaria’* or ‘Area A/B/C’ But ‘pluralistic’ is flying in the face of all the evidence.

        *Derived, of course, from the time when Rome was the occupier. How ironic is that?

  • Habbabkuk

    Is this blog reverting to its previous state of being a vehicle for constant anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and, dare I say it, anti-Jew propaganda following the arrival of a certain new poster?

    The blog has been rather clean in this respect for the last few months. It would be a shame for it to morph back into what was seen by some as a hate site.

    Perhaps Craig should have a private word with a certain new poster?

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