Monthly Archives: February 2017


Tory Election Expenses Fraud

I want to commend this amazing resource which a dedicated investigator has collated on Tory Election Expenses Fraud, covering no less than 57 MPs. A huge amount of data is available locally and this is the best central repository I have seen. It repays hours of browsing. As the evidence builds it becomes plain that massive cheating was a key element of the Tory victory. That there is no chance at all that Britain’s corrupt electoral, police and legal institutions will do anything about it is, sadly, equally certain.

But hats off to Michael Crick for continuing to try at Channel 4. He did a fantastic doorstep today of Nick Timothy, a May adviser in 10 Downing Street who was one of many Tories whose party paid expenses in weeks of campaigning in South Thanet were not declared. It was also quite incredible work by the cameraman. If anyone can find a copy I could embed here…

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Brexit Will Lower Wages

It has surprised the naïve that in the last two weeks Tory ministers have been lining up to assure employers that there will be no reduction in the flow of immigrant workers into
the UK after Brexit.

There are two things that infuriate me about the “left wing” argument that EU immigration lowers wages in the UK through importing labour. Firstly it is not left wing at all, it is narrowly nationalist and founded on the protectionist premise that the condition of the worker in say Poland – who would benefit both from opportunities in the UK and from international labour competition elevating wages there – does not matter. The “left wing” proponents of the protected national labour market are actually just ill-disguised racists.

The second criticism of these “left-wing” people is that they are extremely stupid. Anybody who believes that the plutocrat paymasters of UKIP, the Tories and the corporate press, supported Brexit in order to raise wages, is certifiable.

That is why the Tories are making plain there will be no reduction in the labour supply from the EU. That will keep coming. But there will be one essential difference.

EU workers will no longer be in the UK as fellow EU citizens with exactly the same rights as UK EU citizens. In future, the EU workers will be here on work visas, probably two or five year renewable. These will be awarded through sponsorship by their employer. That will put them at the absolute mercy of employers and make them terrified of complaint or even standing against gross abuse and illegality. The conditions at the Sports Direct warehouse will seem good compared to what is coming in workplaces throughout the UK, once people like Mike Ashley can simply have “troublemakers” instantly deported.

All workers will of course lose more formal rights and protections, like the maximum working week and strict health and safety regulation. EU citizens in the UK will also lose the citizen’s right of address by political participation and voting.

Brexit will lower wages. It will be the biggest license to exploit ever handed back to predatory capitalists, at a time when the wealth gap between the super rich and the poor is at its widest, and notions of social responsibility among the wealthy at their weakest.

Brexit is a disaster for the working woman and man. Yet so many of the so-called “left” are too blind to see it.

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Gerald Kaufman

When I was just a junior diplomat organising a trip for a group of parliamentarians, Gerald Kaufman MP, then a shadow cabinet member, nipped into a shop and bought me a snack because he knew I had missed my breakfast. I was tied up trying to sort out a replacement bus for them. His was a tiny but surprising act of kindness. You perhaps learn more truth about public figures from such behind the scenes moments than their public life. I may be wrong, but I doubt Tony Blair spent or spends much time worrying whether junior functionaries have eaten.

He always seemed one of the most intelligent figures in British politics, and I am sorry for his death, albeit at a good age.

I am still more sorry because Kaufman became a victim of the current ludicrous, but media-supported, campaign to whip up accusations of anti-Semitism against any critic of Israel. In one extraordinarily horrible manifestation of this, Tal Ofer, Labour Progress member and a member of the board of Deputies, sought to have Gerald Kaufman, a Jewish MP, excluded from the parliamentary Channukah celebrations. That seems to me extraordinarily graceless and unpleasant and the polar opposite of Kaufman’s own kindliness.

In the last year of his life Kaufman, whose grandmother was shot in her bed by the Nazis in Poland, became one of the victims of the fake extreme zionist charity “The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism”, which is now rather belatedly under investigation by the Charity Commissioners for England. As the chairman of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, made his career as an extreme pro-Israel propagandist, and is a former trustee of both the ultra neo-con Henry Jackson Society and the Anglo-Israel Association, I do not hold out much hope for this investigation.

I am sure there are still many people in the British Jewish community who admired a man as intelligent, able and honest as Gerald Kaufman. But that such a prominent and generous-minded Jewish man could be accused of anti-Semitism by pro-Israeli activists, would I hope serve to give pause to those in the mainstream media who amplify their views (except of course this campaign has gained such a media boost purely as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn).

I am sorry for Gerald Kaufman’s death. Please do him the honour of listening to this short speech in parliament, as a remembrance of a decent man. It will not feature in any mainstream media obituaries.

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Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I shall be quite busy speaking in the next few weeks:

Friday 24 February 8pm in The Elephant and Castle, Lewes, Sussex. The Headstrong Club (entry £3). I shall be attempting a wide ranging radical analysis of world events encompassing Trump, Brexit, Putin, Corbyn, China and where ordinary people stand as the world order changes. I love Lewes, which has the most fascinating radical tradition dating back to Thomas Paine and beyond, and still retains that vibe in an extraordinary way.

Saturday 25th February 1pm to 7pm, Gustav Tuck Lecture Theatre, University College London. Conference on “Noam Chomsky’s The Responsibility of Intellectuals, 50 Years On.” Speakers are Neil Smith, Nicholas Allott, Chris Knight, Craig Murray, Milan Rai, Jackie Walker, Kriszta Szendroi, and Noam Chomsky himself (by live video-link). The event will be broadcast live here.

I had to send an abstract of my talk for Chomsky to see so he will be able to respond, which makes me feel like a worried schoolboy. I am scheduled to speak at 4.20 for 35 minutes. Chomsky will be speaking at 5.15.

Thursday 2nd March Leeds University Palestine Solidarity Group and Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Talk entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution?”. Venue and time details to follow.

Tuesday 7th March in the Black Abbott, Borrowfield at 7.30 pm talk to Montrose SNP Branch on the Next Independence Referendum. I understand they will be inviting other SNP branches in Angus.

Thursday 9th March 6.30pm Talk to Motherwell and Wishaw Rotary Club on Lessons from my Diplomatic Career.

Saturday 11th March 11am, Tigh Na Sghire, Portree, Isle of Skye screening of London Calling and discussion of BBC Bias. London Calling – Skye (PDF)

And a few longer term but interesting ones:

Sunday 26 March, Pacific Quay, Glasgow, BBC Bias Protest

Saturday 15 April, Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera Forum. Speaker on “State Crisis and the Middle East.”

Thursday 11 May 2.30pm Upper Room Town Hall, Chipping Campden. Sikunder Burnes, Master of the Great Game. Chipping Campden Literary Festival tickets £7.

As I constantly repeat, I am very disorganised so if you are inviting me do keep nagging if I don’t reply, and once confirmed do keep reminding me!

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BBC Announces New Anti-Scottish Channel

The BBC is to launch a major new unionist propaganda channel in time for the next Independence referendum. There will be 80 new unionists employed as journalists. Close relatives of senior Labour party figures are particularly welcome to apply, and in a new broadening of BBC Scotland employment policy, a larger percentage of Ruth Davidson fans will also be recruited. The news of the new job opportunities is especially welcome to the large number of Labour Party hacks who will be unemployed following the Scottish council elections in May.

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BBC Glories in Death

The BBC appear enraptured by the apparent death of Ronald Fiddler in Mosul fighting for Islamic State forces. Fiddler was a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, so this “vindicates” the War on Terror. The BBC are leading every news bulletin and giving us full spectrum security services propaganda. We have MI6 mouthpiece Frank Gardner, the discredited neo-con chancers of the Quilliam Foundation and the far right professional supporter of military attacks on the Middle East, Afzal Ashraf, all giving us their views every half hour on the BBC.

It has never been disputed that Ronald Fiddler was tortured in Guantanamo, which is partly why he was paid substantial compensation by the British government. It does not seem to have occurred to the BBC as worth any consideration that the fact Fiddler emerged from Guantanamo and apparently became a supporter of violent Islam, does not in any sense prove that he was a violent islamist before being tortured in Guantanamo. Yet that Guantanamo was the cause of his extreme alienation is on the surface highly probable.

The BBC did not interview Moazzam Begg or Clive Stafford Smith or anybody who might have something thoughtful to say on the subject. Instead they went solely for self-reinforcing voices of the right wing establishment, the most pro-invading the Middle East voices that could possibly be found.

750,000 civilians face the assault on Mosul in the next few days. The rebel forces being attacked have precisely the same religion, precisely the same philosophy, and in a significant number of cases belong to precisely the same organisations as the rebels who were driven out of Aleppo by Assad forces and the Russians. Yet the assault on Mosul is apparently a wonderful thing, to be cheered on by the propaganda of embedded journalists, while the precisely analogous assault on Aleppo was an appalling and irresponsible massacre. It must be very strange to stretch your conscience to work in the BBC; a peculiar and remarkable kind of talent.

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The Edge of Reason

Until the time, not too distant, when we achieve Scottish independence and a moment of political flux where we can attempt to build a fairer nation than the one in which we now live, I am entitled sometimes to get depressed by the appalling injustice and inequity against which I see people struggle daily. Sometimes that depression binds my typing hands and prevents me from writing for days on end. I have been feeling this lately rather acutely.

A couple of days ago I was buying some coal with my son Jamie and reminisced about the days when I worked on a coalyard, shovelling coal into hundredweight sacks. I then explained to him a hundredweight was (strangely) 8 stone or 112 pounds, and tried to express a hundredweight in kilos. By chance it was a fraction over 50 kilos. As we were straining to carry 25kg sacks, I was puzzled how at age 16 I had dealt with 50kg ones. Harder times.

The memory of this conversation led me this morning to decide to write a satirical piece about crazy Little England Brexiteers now being able to bring back Imperial weights and measures and get rid of these awful foreign kilos and metres. Then a little research this morning told me that, about the time I had the conversation with my son, a conservative Minister was mooting exactly that.

You just can’t out-crazy the Tories at the minute.

I was visiting England over half-term and was truly shocked to hear the experience of an Italian friend of mine who lives in London. She had been buying vegetables at a stall and had asked for zucchini. The vendor had replied “They are called courgettes. Use the proper English word or I am not serving you.” She decided to take this as a joke, smiled and said “sorry, courgettes” but the man then said that he couldn’t wait for Brexit when she would be kicked out of the country.

After a couple of days, she decided to report the incident to the police as the upset had not died down. The police were ostensibly very friendly and offered to take action, but they impressed on her the matter was very serious and would lead to the man being arrested and put in the cells. I was, from her account, dubious whether the police had not been emphasising the nuclear options to persuade her to withdraw the complaint while ostensibly doing the opposite, ie taking her complaint at its most serious. They did not outline other possibilities, ie a good talking to and a caution on his record. Not wanting to risk sending the man to prison, she withdrew the complaint.

This is only one piece of anecdotal evidence. I am not yet convinced by evidence that Brexit has created more racists. But that it has socially empowered racists and brought racism into mainstream political discourse is undoubtedly true. That is likely to create still more racists eventually.

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Boris Johnson – an Ethics Free Zone

The total absence of even a shadow of an ethical dimension to UK foreign policy is nowhere better illustrated than its continued relationship with the appalling Uzbek dictatorship. There is competition of course for the role of most unconscionable British policy. The support for the vicious tyrant of Bahrain and the suppression of the Bahraini Shia majority, the secret British military presence on the ground in Saudi Arabia assisting the bombing campaign that has killed thousands of children, these are sickening examples of Britain’s true role in the world.

But for sheer hypocrisy, the continued military support of a dictatorship universally recognised as having no equal in repression outside North Korea, takes the prize. Here are some truly vomit-inducing passages from a speech today by the British ambassador to Uzbekistan:

The Ambassador stressed the great importance of the defence relationship between the UK and Uzbekistan and expressed his gratitude for Uzbekistan’s assistance and longstanding support for transit arrangements that facilitate UK military operations in Afghanistan. Defense cooperation between the two nations has been steadily increasing over the period and is continuing to develop in a mutually beneficial manner. Among many other notable achievements, the British Embassy is proud that the UK was the first nation to sign a defense education agreement between our military academies.

Ambassador Allan spoke about the many positive results achieved over the 25 years of UK-Uzbekistan bilateral political relations. He mentioned the visit of the first President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, HE Mr. Islam Karimov, to the United Kingdom in November 1993, which gave a powerful early stimulus to the development of the relations between two countries. Fittingly, last year – the 25th Anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence – was a particularly important one for bilateral relations in the political sphere. In April 2016, Tobias Ellwood, Deputy Minister at the Foreign Office, visited Uzbekistan to further deepen the bilateral relations between the UK and Uzbekistan. And in December 2016, Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, also visited Uzbekistan. Minister Duncan was privileged to be the first foreign dignitary to congratulate President Mirziyoev on his inauguration in person. The visit of His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulaziz Kamilov, to Great Britain in November 2013 marked an important step in enhancing relations between the two countries and the UK hopes to welcome His Excellency back to London during the course of this year.

You may wish to compare and contrast these extracts of a speech which I wrote and delivered while British Ambassador to Uzbekistan:

Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy, nor does it appear to be moving in the direction of democracy. The major political parties are banned; parliament is not subject to democratic election and checks and balances on the authority of the executive are lacking.

There is worse: we believe there to be between seven and ten thousand people in detention whom we would consider as political and/or religious prisoners. In many cases they have been falsely convicted of crimes with which there appears to be no credible evidence they had any connection. Reputable Human Rights groups such as Human
Rights Watch and Amnesty international have brought to our attention specific instances where the same crime is used serially to convict a number of people. There appears to be a belief that such persecution of an individual can be justified by labelling them as an “Islamic extremist”.

Now, with the US and other allies, the British government remains in the very forefront of the commitment to the war against terrorism. And we are most grateful for the invaluable assistance rendered to the coalition by the government of Uzbekistan in respect of operations in Afghanistan. We acknowledge that we face the same global
threat.

Nobody should seek to underestimate the genuine security concerns of the government of Uzbekistan and the difficulties it has faced in countering those who seek to use religion and the problems of poverty to promote terror. Uzbekistan’s strategic situation has put it in the forefront of countries struggling to deal with problems such as terrorism and narcotics trafficking.

But let us make this point: no government has the right to use the war against terrorism as an excuse for the persecution of those with a deep personal commitment to the Islamic religion, and who pursue their views by peaceful means. Sadly the large majority of those wrongly imprisoned in Uzbekistan fall into this category.
But it is not only Muslims who suffer; the British Embassy yesterday observed the trial of a Jehovah’s Witness, being prosecuted for pursuing his beliefs. It should not be a crime to practice your religion, nor to tell others about it. And a number of those imprisoned are ethnic Russian human rights defenders, colleagues of some of my audience. I would like to say at this point how deeply I admire you on a personal level. I am very conscious that I stand here in a very privileged position, in the literal sense. You on the other hand daily risk persecution to stand up for the rights of your fellow citizens. You have my deepest respect and one day your countrymen will be in a position to show you their gratitude.

Uzbekistan is to be congratulated on a good record of ratifying key UN Conventions on human rights; unfortunately there appears to be a gap between obligation and practice.
World attention has recently been focussed on the prevalence of torture in Uzbek prisons. The terrible case of Avazoz and Alimov apparently tortured to death by boiling water, has evoked great international concern. But all of us know that this is not an isolated incident. Brutality is inherent in a system where convictions habitually rely on signed confessions rather than on forensic or material evidence. In the Uzbek criminal justice system the conviction rate is almost 100%. It is difficult not to conclude that once accused by the Prokurator there is no effective possibility of fair trial in the sense we understand it.

Another chilling reminder of the former Soviet Union is the use of commitment to lunatic asylums to stifle dissidents. We are still seeing examples of this in 2002.
Nor does the situation appear to be getting any better. I have been told by people who should know that there are significantly more political and religious detainees now than there were this time last year. From my own meetings with human rights groups from across the country there appears to be a broad picture of a reduction in the rate of arrests in the first half of this year, but a very substantial increase around August. Just last week saw another highly suspicious death in police custody in Tashkent. There is little sign of genuine positive change in Human Rights.

And that is what we want to see; genuine change. By that I mean change which actually increases the liberty of Uzbek citizens in their daily lives.

Among the classified documents I leaked when I blew the whistle (for which under current legislative proposals I would get 14 years in prison) was the correspondence with the FCO in which I cleared this speech for delivery. I think this has gained rather than lost interest over the years and you can read it here.

I do not pretend to be surprised that my tenure as Ambassador did not feature in Ambassador Allan’s account today of the 25 years of British/Uzbek diplomatic relations. He rather outlined a catalogue of British arse-licking. I am however quietly content that so many decent people see my efforts as rather more worthy and substantive than the current shameful policy. Twelve years after my resignation, I still hear from Uzbeks fighting for freedom every single day of my life. In twelve years time nobody in Uzbekistan will recall the name Boris Johnson.

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Irish Union on European Agendas

I was speaking with a Polish friend who is a Member of the European Parliament. He confirmed that Brexit had led to very wide support for Scottish Independence in the Parliament, across many political and national divides. He also made the interesting point that the cause of Irish reunification was again mentioned in the bars of Brussels.

This of course makes perfect sense. With the personal and economic freedoms and common rights of EU citizenship, a sense of both the Republic and the North being inside a much wider union took the edge off some of the grievances of Irish nationalists, at least to the degree that this was a contributing argument for ceasing to pursue reunification by violence. It is a commonplace that Brexit undermines the intellectual and emotional basis of the Good Friday agreement – it certainly does. I hope Brexit will not result in renewed violence, but that it will result in a strongly renewed demand for Irish reunification I do not doubt – and I will support that demand.

The sympathy that demand for Irish union will invoke in Europe post-Brexit is but one example of the extreme diplomatic isolation of the UK under the Little Englanders. Boris Johnson and Liam Fox will have no mates abroad, other than Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi and Gulf tyrants; while Trump’s words of praise for Brexit will be backed by no trade or policy concessions whatsoever.

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University Governance

I seldom post a reference to somebody else’s article, but I do strongly recommend John O’Dowd in Bella Caledonia on the “Scottish Democratic Intellect”. Long term readers will know that the changing of universities effectively into corporations, and the destruction of the democratic ethos in their governance, is one of my greatest sorrows. Several of O’Dowd’s themes are mirrored in my own Rectorial Address at the University of Dundee. Do read it. It starts with a good deal of knockabout comedy, but then gets serious, which is precisely how life at University should progress.

The University of Dundee refused to place my Installation Address in the University Library, thus ironically proving my entire point. It still is not there, and nor are Murder in Samarkand, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, nor Sikunder Burnes – all of which proves precisely the point I was making. Long term readers will also be aware that the University Senate, at the urging of the Administration, refused after a debate to give me the honorary Degree routinely given to all Rectors, on the grounds I was “insufficiently distinguished”. They gave Honorary Degrees to Lorraine Kelly and Fred Macaulay, my immediate predecessors, so the yardstick for “distinguished” is somewhat woolly. I think it must mean “acceptable to the Establishment”. I do not crave honours, having turned down a LVO, OBE and CVO from the Queen. But the snub from the university hurt me deeply as I devoted much of my life to it, having been both Rector and President of the students union (twice). I think it is the only one of dozens of snubs from the Establishment to this whistleblower that actually succeeded in hurting.

Finally, I recommend as still very relevant the paper I helped write with Robin McAlpine, Allyson Pollock and Adam Ramsay for the Jimmy Reid Foundation on The Democratic University. I am in fact very hopeful that there is sufficient understanding among Scottish intellectuals of what needs to be done after Independence to root out the neo-liberal model from our universities. In this as in so much else, Independence will not be enough if we do not use it to institute radical government.

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Labour’s Failure and Institutional Analysis

Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit in Parliament is as culpable as Harriet Harman’s failure to oppose welfare cuts. It will haunt Labour just as much. The job of opposition is to oppose. We currently have a more right wing government than I imagined the UK would ever see in my lifetime, and it is riding a tide of racist populism in England and Wales, barked on by a far right media whose ownership and world view is ever more concentrated. This is no time to drop the duty of resistance.

Corbyn’s view of the EU is ambivalent. Both major English and Welsh parties are led by people who are at least highly sympathetic to Brexit. That is a democratic failure when 47 per cent of the English and Welsh voters supported the EU.

The problem with the EU as a cause is that it is supported by some extremely unpleasant people. Straw (father and son), Mandelson, Osborne. The EU has nobody given media coverage to speak for it in the UK that is not amongst the most despised members of the political class. And in criticising Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit, I find myself echoing Blairites, which is uncomfortable.

But there are two major problems with the left criticism of the EU. The first is its willingness to be hijacked to the racist cause with the economically illiterate argument that immigration means competition for the fixed number of jobs, and thus drives down the living standards of British workers. That atavism I dismiss with contempt. Not least because even if it were true, it shows a very narrow lack of concern for workers of the world outside Thanet. Beggar thy neighbour is not a socialist motto.

The second and more subtle trap into which the left falls is to view the EU as a set of policies. It is not a set of policies, it is a supra-national institution. At the moment its policies tend towards the neo-liberal because at the moment Europe, and especially the UK, is dominated by neo-liberal governments. The notion that leaving the EU will bring more social justice under the reality of continual Tory governments is one of the more risible contentions of much of the British left.

The EU can very much be a force for good. I am personally convinced that there are two reasons Scotland is so much more pro-EU than England. The first is a generally more internationalist and communal outlook in society at large. The second is that during the Thatcher years, when Scottish industry was being devastated and there was a deliberate government policy of no action to alleviate suffering communities, EU regional policy provided the only ray of light. I recall personally seeing big signboards at the dualling of the A9 and the construction of Dundee airport, stating that they were paid for by EU Regional Funds. As Corbyn pointed out in the referendum, workers’ rights, the maximum working week, tachometers, many health and safety standards, all came from the EU when doctrinaire right wing Westminster documents were abolishing “red tape”.

This failure to note that the EU is an institution not a policy, is reflected in the Left’s current attitude to trade agreements. Trade is an extremely good thing. Neo-liberal governments around the world have added highly undesirable extras to trade agreements. The role of Investor Protection clauses which allow cabals of lawyers to adjudicate billions of dollars to rapacious corporations is well understood. But it is not a necessary feature of a trade agreement. Nor is it necessary for a trade agreement to forbid state aid. It is a perfectly logical position for two states to trade without tariffs while accepting that the organisation of the internal resources of a state is its own affair. The neo-liberals are in any event inconsistent here. They ought to believe that state aid to one industry is going to cause inefficiencies which will balance out by giving the state traded with comparative advantage elsewhere. Because neo-liberal governments have secured the addition of these unnecessary bolt-ons to multilateral trade deals, does not make the concept of multilateral trade deals in itself bad. And again, the notion that Liam Fox is going to negotiate anything fairer is hysterical.

Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit is a symptom of the abandonment by much of the left of the principles of internationalism. Internationalism is not possible without international institutions. To write off those institutions because they are currently controlled by right wing governments is short-sighted to the point of being stupid. That it leaves the left vying for the racist vote with the atavistic right is a plain signal of what a wrong direction it is.

Labour is becoming an irrelevance in Scotland. The latest opinion poll has SNP 47%, Conservative 27%, Labour 15%, Lib Dems 4%, Greens 3%. This continues a trend of Labour bleeding support to the Tories. It is however fascinating that the Tories in Scotland having achieved their highest point, that point is still lower than the lowest point of Labour in the UK under Corbyn. Yet Tory ministers are prepared to take this Tory “popularity” in Scotland as evidence they can ride roughshod over the Scottish people en route to Brexit.

More significant is what is happening at council by-elections all over Scotland, held under Single Transferable Vote. It has become an accepted part of political life here that Tories, Lib Dems and Labour will transfer their preferences to each other. So Labour voters will transfer to Tory rather than to SNP or Green. This everyday collusion with the Tories reveals Scotland’s remaining Red Tories for what they are. It also makes it essential that everybody in the crucial council elections looming in Scotland votes SNP first or at the very least ensures they use all their preferences and include all the SNP candidates.

I have blogged for some years now about the deep gap in social and political attitudes between England and Scotland. That this gap manifests itself in attitudes to the EU is not surprising, and if that has become the wedge all well and good. That the same gap is resulting in a clear choice between Independence and the Tories – both Tory rule from Westminster and the Tories in Scotland – is the inevitable working out of the same process.

That is why all the Scottish left should now suspend dispute and get behind the SNP until after Independence, provided the referendum happens before the end of next year (which appears happily almost inevitable).

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As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed

The Israeli Embassy has seventeen Israeli “technical and administrative staff” granted visas by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The normal number for an Embassy that size would be about two. I spoke to two similar size non-EU Embassies this morning, one has two and one zero. I recall I dealt with an angry Foreign Minister during my own FCO career incensed his much larger High Commission had been refused by the FCO an increase from three to four technical and administrative staff.

Shai Masot, the Israeli “diplomat” who had been subverting Britain’s internal democracy with large sums of cash and plans to concoct scandal against a pro-Palestinian British minister, did not appear in the official diplomatic list.

I queried this with the FCO, and was asked to put my request in writing. A full three weeks later and after dozens of phone calls, they reluctantly revealed that Masot was on the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy.

This is plainly a nonsense. Masot, as an ex-Major in the Israeli Navy and senior officer in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is plainly senior to many who are on the Diplomatic List, which includes typists and personal assistants. There are six attaches – support staff – already on the List.

Masot was plainly not carrying out technical and administrative duties. The term is a formal one from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and it is plain from the convention that technical and administrative staff are in official status lower than the diplomatic staff. The majority of support activities are carried out in all Embassies by locally engaged staff already resident in the host country, but a very small number of technical and administrative staff may be allowed visas for work in particularly secure areas. They may be an IT and communications technician, possibly a cleaner in the most sensitive physical areas, and perhaps property management.

These staff do not interact with politicians of the host state or attend high level meetings beside the Ambassador. The level at which Shai Masot was operating was appropriate to a Counsellor or First Secretary in an Embassy. Masot’s formal rank as an officer in his cover job in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs would entitle him to that rank in the Embassy if this were a normal appointment.

The Al Jazeera documentaries plainly revealed that Masot was working as an intelligence officer, acquiring and financing “agents of influence”. It is simply impossible that the FCO would normally grant seventeen technical and administrative visas to support sixteen diplomats, when six of the sixteen are already support staff. The only possible explanation, confirmed absolutely by Masot’s behaviour, is that the FCO has knowingly connived at settling a large nest of Israeli spies in London. I fairly put this to the FCO and they refused to comment.

I asked my questions on 10 January. On 12 January the FCO asked me to put them in writing. On 2 February they finally replied to the first three questions, but refused to comment on questions 4 or 5 about involvement of the intelligence services in Masot’s appointment.

On 2 February I sent these follow-up questions to the FCO by email:

FCO Media Department have replied that they refuse to give me any further information on the subject, and that I should proceed through a Freedom of Information request so the FCO can assess properly whether the release of any further information is in the national interest.

What is it they are always saying to us: if you have got nothing to fear, you have got nothing to hide?

I am confident I know what they are hiding, and that is FCO complicity in a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, was so astonishingly muted. It is also worth noting that while the media could not completely ignore the fantastic al Jazeera documentaries that exposed the scandal, it was a matter of a brief article and no follow up digging.

This was not just a curiosity, it reveals a deep-seated problem for our democracy. I intend to continue picking at it.

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Tories Tread a Dangerous Path

I have always believed that Theresa May is likely to try to block a new Independence referendum – and it is extremely unlikely her defence secretary, the odious Michal Fallon, would have said this so categorically without prior agreement with May. Fallon, taking a break from supplying weapons to the Saudis for killing Yemeni children, displayed huge arrogance towards Scotland, which the Tories believe is firmly under the heel. They refuse to acknowledge that any difficulty arises from the contradictory referendum results in Scotland, where Scots voted both to remain part of the UK, and to remain part of the EU – the second more recently and by a much wider margin.

The Tory view is that Scotland is but a province of the UK. They are of course right – the UK Supreme Court decision makes quite plain that Scotland’s so-called “parliament” does not derive its power from the Scottish people, but only from what Westminster condescends to hand back. Indeed Westminster could abolish Scotland’s parliament tomorrow. For the Tories, a combination of that Supreme Court decision, their Brexit victory, and the elevation of the Tories to 21% in Scottish elections (Fallon quotes public support for Ruth Davison in his interview), mean that they don’t have to offer Scotland anything.

For God’s sake, let them not be proved right.

Do you remember the scene in Braveheart, where the nobles at Stirling Bridge are planning to negotiate and go home, and Wallace forces them into a fight? Well, I know which Sturgeon reminds me of more at the moment. If she is planning to fight eventually she is masking her intentions brilliantly. The problem that worries me is that the SNP is now the Scottish establishment, and as Scotland is still very much part of the UK, they are part of the British establishment too. A lot of our MPs seem to have their feet under the table very nicely at Westminster. The SNP as an institution has not just its Westminster MPs but their secretaries and research assistants and the group staff, and all the people paid with millions of Westminster “Short money”. That is a major group of party apparatchiks making a fat living out of the current system. Plus of course Holyrood and its power and jobs.

The SNP as an institution is doing very nicely out of the status quo, and that is why there are so many siren voices within the SNP arguing that it is too early for a referendum; “we might lose it”, “leaving the EU is not such a disaster”, “there are a lot of anti-EU Independence supporters anyway”.

There is a lot of self-fulfilling prophesy here. As there has been virtually no actual campaigning for Independence since 2014 and the media still spew anti-Independence propaganda daily, it is hardly surprising Independence support is not rising in the polls. It is a miracle it is holding steady.

The Tories are banking on leaving the EU being normalised. People are getting used to the idea, and the ill consequences of leaving the single market will not really bite until we do so. This is where Sturgeon’s Fabian tactics play in to the Tory agenda. Instead of a break with Westminster over EU membership, the Scottish government is allowing public interest to evaporate in a series of dull Joint Ministerial Committee meetings. There matters are kicked into long grass and mollifying but insincere words spoken about how seriously the devolved administrations are being taken. I can see no point in continuing with this charade unless the SNP itself intends to allow the issue to fizzle out in a drizzle of EFTA’s, EEA’s, CTA’s and other dull acronyms.

The racist majority in England and Wales are trying to force us out of the EU. The UK Supreme Court has ruled the Sewel Convention has no legal force. Now the Tories are arrogantly refusing the right of the Scottish people even to hold a referendum. I cannot imagine the degree of humiliation the SNP feels is necessary to pull the trigger on another Independence attempt. The time is now.

If the Tories do succeed in preventing another referendum from taking place, they are playing with fire. It is worth noting that there is no requirement for Scotland to hold a referendum to become Independent.

Independence is not an internal question. It is the existence of a state recognised by its fellow states, and that recognition is expressed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. A referendum is not a requirement for that UN recognition. Please note the rest of this paragraph very, very carefully. The majority of States in the world have achieved independence during my own lifetime. The vast majority of those did so without a referendum. Not only is a referendum not a requirement, it is extremely unusual. Of the 194 states recognised by the UN, only a tiny handful featured a referendum as part of the process of the formation of the state. This is also true within the EU. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic all recently assumed their current form and none of them had a referendum to do it.

If the Tories refuse a referendum, the Scottish Government should respond by declaring Independence. My preferred method of doing this would be to convene a National Assembly, comprising of all Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s, and for that National Assembly to make the declaration. This would broadly accord with international norms. Independence should be effective from the declaration, but that Independence could if desired be employed to hold the referendum which the Tories had refused.

I do not posit this as the best way to achieve Independence. My preference would be a new referendum now in the new circumstances of the UK leaving the EU, as fairly presaged in the SNP’s successful manifesto for the last Holyrood elections. I am convinced that once campaigning starts, support for Independence will surge as during the last campaign, only this time starting from a much higher base.

The Tories fought the Holyrood election on a manifesto saying no second Independence referendum. They got 21% of the vote. May and Fallon should be aware as they plan to block a referendum: other options are available.

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