Monthly Archives: March 2017


Pollution

I apologise for the suspension of blogging – I am still in Ghana. Despite work being a bit tough at the moment, it is as always a delightful place, though this last week it has been polluted by the presence of Tony Blair. Why he thinks that this vibrant democracy needs to be lectured on “leadership” by a war criminal, is beyond me. Blair should rather take a lesson from Ghana, which is celebrating its sixtieth year of existence and has never invaded another country. Doubtless, beneath his hypocritical witterings, he is as always sniffing around for money and trying to leverage himself into Ghana’s oil, gold or bauxite sectors. A revolting little man, who has to traipse the world looking for platforms where he will not be challenged for his crimes and the hundreds of thousands of children killed by his wars – and even in Ghana his appearances were strictly invitation only.

I cannot give any definite time when I will be back and the blog will resume. Probably about another fortnight.

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Thoughts from Ghana

I spent today at the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Bunso and the nearby Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana. Those who have read my memoir The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and other Conflicts I Have Known will know that rural development in Africa has been the abiding passion of my working life. The good news is that for the first time a paperback edition of The Catholic Orangemen should be out in a week or so.

The abiding impression of today was the extent of local awareness of environmental issues and the need to maintain a fragile but wonderful ecology. This faces enormous challenges. I was intellectually aware of the extent of illegal gold mining in Ghana but unprepared for the evidence of its scale. Rivers that provide the drinking water for millions have been transformed into dead sewers of brown sludge. Having known them as live rivers, I was really shaken.

Ghana is looking to develop its bauxite industry and finally bring its aluminium smelters to life. This will impact the precise area I was visiting and I know from Jamaica that the environmental impact of bauxite mining is hideous. It is perhaps the most destructive of all extractive industries. It is a horrid irony that the bauxite scheme should impact the exact area where local traditional leadership (the Okyenhene) has pioneered environmentalism.

I feel conflicted. Our standard of living in the developed world has been based on the destruction of the forests which we conveniently forget once covered our lands. We wish to keep what remains of wild Africa as untouched as possible, because we know that otherwise it impacts us. But we are not prepared to expend serious resources into raising the standard of living of those who would be denied the immediate material benefits of industrial mining. My instincts are all to oppose the bauxite extraction on environmental grounds. But I am not so intellectually dishonest as to pretend that, with all the pollution and illnesses and destruction, the industry would not bring important wealth and employment. It would. I do not feel morally able to lecture poor communities on why they should remain undeveloped when they are excited by rare hope. I suspect many of you will think I am wrong.

On a more positive note, I was inspired by the commitment of the faculty of the University College, their research interests and their ability to deliver a first class curriculum to the students with minimal resources. It struck me how a major improvement could be made to their efforts by the injection of comparatively modest sums into laboratory equipment, for example. I shall be working on this and in the longer term on developing possible academic collaborations.

I loved the new canopy walk at Bunso built to promote eco-tourism.

It has five of these bridges, all of which are high, and one very high indeed as it crosses a valley. It is a great deal more adventurous than the one at Kakum. And yes, I did cross them all.

I am often very critical of the FCO, so it would be churlish of me not to note that Jon Benjamin leaves Accra this summer after an extremely effective and principled tenure as High Commissioner, including playing an effective and helpful role behind the scenes in the third peaceful transfer of power between political parties since Ghana became a real democracy in 2000. The more so since, most unusually, the UK was acting against the desires of the USA, and I suspect Jon was pivotal in that.

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Options for Independence

So what do we do now with Theresa May apparently obdurate on blocking the referendum?

It is important to realise politics are fluid. In a week’s time the situation will not be what it is today. The battle for public opinion is key. The unionist media (ie virtually all of it) are asserting continuously, as a uniform line, that opinion polls say the people of Scotland do not want a second Independence referendum in the timescale Nicola Sturgeon has set out – even though that is not true at all. The serial Tory crooks at You Gove came out with an opinion poll right on cue “showing” that support for Independence is hitting new lows. But I suspect it will not be long before evidence emerges that May’s unattractive diktat has profoundly assisted the Independence cause. That will change the game.

So with a wind of public opinion behind her, what does Sturgeon do if Westminster denies a Scottish Parliament request for a referendum? There are several options:

1) Hold an Advisory Referendum

It appears probable (though not undisputed) that the Scottish government can hold a referendum which is not binding, without Section 30 permission from Westminster. It is hard for Westminster to dismiss the result of an advisory referendum, given that Brexit was only an advisory referendum and May has taken as a matter of faith that it is binding.

But as we saw in Catalonia, a boycott by unionist forces can be quite effective in denying the credibility of a non-binding referendum result. I strongly suspect that would be their attitude to an advisory referendum, and I do not see it as a strong way forward.

2) Call a New Holyrood Election

This is an attractive option in many ways. It would be predicated on the plain statement that a new pro-Independence majority would declare Independence unilaterally. That would be the normal and internationally accepted way for a country to secede – a referendum is very much the exception.

But there are problems with this approach. The first is that it would require a two thirds majority of the Scottish parliament to dissolve it, and the Unionists would in all probability simply block it. Forcing them to do that may be a good move, but doesn’t take us far forward.

The second problem, should parliament dissolve, is the campaign itself. As it would not be a referendum campaign, media coverage would not be balanced on independence, but the unionist parties in effect given three times the coverage of the SNP, assuming the Greens continue to be very poorly treated. But as the “Balance” of the referendum coverage was risible anyway, I am not sure this is so much of a drawback.

More difficult is the uncertainty created by the appalling De Hondt system. There is no doubt that the optimum outcome for Independence would be for every Independence supporter to vote SNP 1 and Green 2. But in practice that will never happen on a significant scale, and what is the best way to utilise your vote to achieve independence is simply not predictable. Risking all on a system so prone to statistical fluke is a problem.

3) Call a National Assembly

In the event that Scotland is being blocked from holding either a referendum or an election, the Scottish Government could move to convene a National Assembly. This might consist of all MPs, MSPs and MEPs and that body could declare Independence. To be clear, that would be a revolutionary act in UK terms, but it is perfectly normal for such an act to be required at the birth of a new state and is no bar to it being accepted in international law as a state through recognition by the United Nations General Assembly.

The argument would run that, having been blocked at every turn from holding a democratic vote either by way of referendum or parliamentary election, the Scottish government had taken the option of convening all representatives democratically elected at the national level – MSPs, MPs and MEPs, and these elected representatives of the Scottish people had made the decision. That is perfectly respectable and entirely analogous to the way many EU members such as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent.

To return to my original argument, the possibilities depend very much on how public opinion is seen to be trending. May’s calculation appears to be driven firstly by a desire to play to her Brexiteer base in England – which judging by the rabid comments pages across the media is very successful – and secondly by a desire to further polarise Scottish politics to the benefit of the Scottish Tories. She is more than happy for Independence to be decided on a straight SNP vs Tory field. That May thinks she can win such a battle is an example of staggering hubris.

I have been saying in all of my speeches across Scotland in the last year that the game has changed and we have to be prepared for the idea we may have to achieve Independence without the consent or cooperation of the Westminster government. I am happily no longer a radical outlier in this belief.

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The Disappearing Prime Minister

UPDATE

I was delighted by Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement today, both the content and the manner of her making it.

I am unsure why she put the window for the referendum as far back as autumn 2018 to spring 2019. Autumn 2018 is fine but spring 2019 is late – Nicola Sturgeon spoke of Scotland needing to declare its choice for independence before the UK actually leaves the EU or very shortly thereafter. But very shortly thereafter is too late. In diplomatic terms, a miss is a good as a mile here and in diplomatic terms at the EU, negotiating to get back in will be much harder than negotiating to remain a part of the EU.

My suspicion is Sturgeon is giving May a ladder to climb down on agreeing the referendum by making it potentially post-Brexit. I see no need to have been so accommodating to May. I am frankly puzzled.

But my major observation is that Nicola’s performance was excellent, the decision sound. Yet what struck me most was the lengthy question and answer suggestion. The mainstream media lackeys laughingly called journalists were not really putting questions. They were emitting deep-seated cries of unionist belief, wild anti-Independence assertions, with the lightest disguise as questions. It is a fair warning of what we have coming.

Even Gordon Brown had a honeymoon period. The temporary popularity of a new Prime Minister evaporates as a morning mist searched out by strong sunlight. The budget tax increases, combined with fierce pre-planned benefit cuts, are evaporating May’s popularity before our eyes. The reality of Brexit debacle will shortly hit very hard, and people will start to notice she is not actually very good.

I have been listening out to determine the extent to which May’s Thatcher voice is a deliberate impersonation, and in consequence have been most forcefully struck by how little we hear her voice. Those packaging her, together with a compliant media, seek to present her as much as possible through silent images. She is repeatedly on television entering places and greeting people, but remarkably seldom is her voice heard. She does not give nearly as many media interviews as David Cameron, because she is not good at them.

Prime Minister’s Question Time has almost vanished from our screens. When David Cameron was causing animal guffaws of genuine delight from Tory MPs roused by his facile debating skills, no week went past in which the BBC News did not show a substantial clip of Prime Minister’s Questions, edited for maximum effect in making Cameron look dominant and Corbyn look out of his depth. I do not believe any reader in the UK can honestly say such an image is not seared on to their mind. But now Prime Minister’s Questions almost never make the news bulletins for more than a very few seconds, because May is hopeless at them and is arguably bested by Corbyn fairly regularly. She has no ability for repartee, no timing and wins mechanical guffaws purely by reading out pre-prepared attacks on Labour and SNP that do not pretend to relate to the questions asked.

How do the broadcast media respond? Prime Minister’s Questions are suddenly no longer newsworthy. Unless you happen to be free to watch live – which rules out almost the entire working population – you would very seldom see May flounder. Indeed, the entire plan for retaining her popularity appears to be based on the public hearing her as little as possible. Personally, I have no doubt her recent Glasgow speech attacking not just Scottish independence but the very notion of devolution, was extremely helpful to the Independence cause. I can understand why the establishment try to avoid us actually hearing her.

Jeremy Corbyn should not now be abandoned. I was saddened to see Owen Jones stab him in the back. Jones appears sadly set on the trajectory typically caused by the salary of a Guardian columnist. He will now increasingly retreat into identity politics rather than the cause of universal social justice. I give it eight years before he spends his entire time attacking the left as having “lost their way”.

I could not disagree more strongly with Jeremy on Scottish Independence or on his approach to Brexit. Nobody would claim quick repartee or even set piece oratory were his strongest suits. He interviews fairly well but is of course handicapped by the extraordinary stream of scepticism and deliberate misrepresentation with which journalists approach him. But the honesty and integrity of his beliefs are why he was elected, and those remain at the core of his leadership. For the English and Welsh voter to be given a real choice, rather than just Blue or Red Tories, has horrified the entire neo-con establishment.

It is most improbable that Corbyn will be able to deliver a Labour Westminster victory in 2020, but it is not impossible. The alt-right spasm gripping England and Wales will diminish by then and Brexit enthusiasm will meet the cold real world. I can assure you the Tories are already considering how to avoid having Leaders’ Debates on television for the next general election. For Corbyn to be able to put a radical message directly to the public, and May’s deficiencies in debate to be so directly exposed, is something they will not want at all. May should be seen and not heard, is their motto.

The European Union has put a fault line through the Tory and Labour parties. The chips have fallen in a way that leaves both parties with leaderships that were more sympathetic to Brexit than they revealed during the campaign, and certainly have no interest in trying to stop it. The 48% who voted Remain are therefore practically unrepresented in England and Wales. As I suspect that 48% will increase – and there is a curious lack of opinion polls – this will become an increasingly acute problem as the body politic recovers from shock.

The Lib Dems would be the obvious beneficiaries, but they will not so soon recover from popular revulsion at the alacrity with which they abandoned all pretence at restraining the Tories, in return for ministerial limousines. They also have the least able and least charismatic leader in that party’s long history. Indeed, possibly in any party’s history, anywhere. The never appealing Brezhnev was more charismatic than Tim Farron even when he was being wheeled out to parades propped up and effectively dead.

The Labour Party is in the abject position that its pro-Europeans are very largely the totally discredited Blairites. That the delusional Blair sees the EU issue as his chance of a political comeback, is only evidence of what a terrible state the pro-EU camp is in. There are plenty of pro-EU Tories but they too are more concerned with personal careers, except the Clarkes and Heseltines whose course is already run.

It is difficult to believe this situation is sustainable. On the biggest issue of the day, which will have a huge impact on future living standards, 48% of the population, the best educated and most politically active 48% of the population, have no effective representation. Only in Scotland have we a coherent pro-EU political force, but circumstances are such this cannot help England.

The democracy of the UK has become severely dysfunctional. I firmly believe that a crisis is coming, and that Scottish Independence will be a trigger for the resolution of that crisis. Not only will it remove Scotland from the subjugation that has sapped its energies for centuries, it will give a profound and much needed jolt to the political kaleidoscope in England and Wales and lead to new and more relevant political alignments. It may also finally break the obsession with being a world power that so damaged British people for so long.

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Why is Melanie Phillips Mainstream Acceptable?

I have often pointed to Melanie Phillips to illustrate the fact that while left wing radical thought is excluded from mainstream media, you can be as completely mad, raving off the wall right wing as you wish, and yet still get invited onto every BBC panel or discussion series in existence. She still justifies the Iraq War. She thought Saddam did indeed have those WMDs and they were hidden in secret underground chambers underneath the Euphrates.

Less harmlessly, Phillips employs hate speech and was praised by Anders Breivik. Sweeping anti-Muslim Phrases such as “the Islamic enemies of civilisation” come easily to her. I was appalled by this particular example of Phillips’ hate speech four years ago. You can see how Breivik found her inspiring:

Romney lost because, like Britain’s Conservative Party, the Republicans just don’t understand that America and the west are being consumed by a culture war. In their cowardice and moral confusion, they all attempt to appease the enemies within. And from without, the Islamic enemies of civilisation stand poised to occupy the void.
With the re-election of Obama, America now threatens to lead the west into a terrifying darkness.

I called this out at the time as incitement to religious hatred. Interestingly enough it has now disappeared from Phillips’ own website: http://melaniephillips.com/america-goes-into-the-darkness. But you can’t hide your disgrace on the internet.

Today Phillips spreads the hatred still wider by telling us the Scots and the Irish are not real nations. Only Britain is an authentic nation (behind the Times paywall). Scottish nationalism, she states, is based purely on romance and a hatred of the English. As for Ireland:

The truth is that a large majority of the states in the world achieved independence after 1922. Even if you pretend an Irish nation did not exist until 1922, that still makes it one of the world’s older states. In fact of course Ireland, like most other states, re-emerged into independence following colonial dominance. Nationality is a human construct, not a fact of physics or geography – there never was a state before colonialism with the precise boundaries of India or Nigeria or almost any post-colonial state you can name. But there were autonomous peoples. And very few would describe them as not a nation now.

Even old states change their boundaries from time to time. Norman Davies has a beautiful phrase about Poland emerging again and again into statehood through the mists of history, but never in the same place twice. Yet despite radical boundary changes and having had political autonomy for only 50 of the last 250 years, nobody doubts Poland is a nation state. Nobody doubts Ireland is a nation state either, except Mad Mel. As for Scotland, not only was it a full nation state for hundreds of years until it entered into a voluntary union, it is possible to trace distinct political and cultural expressions of popular nationhood.

Phillips’ hate-filled opinions would be her own affair, were she not given such powerful platforms from which to expound them. I return to where I started. Phillips is evidence you cannot be too right wing for a media platform in the UK, even if you propound actual religious hate. By comparison, nobody as left wing as Phillips is right would ever be given airtime on the BBC or a column in The Times.

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Cover Story

UPDATE

I wrote the below very quickly while dashing out to get ready for a meeting in Montrose this evening. I was in a panic as I had forgotten to prepare. I tweeted about it as I was just about to leave, and received several replies telling me that the meeting is tomorrow (which is why I hadn’t got ready for it earlier).

This is not particularly old age. My friends will tell you I have been this scatty all my life. I can give an hours lecture on Byron’s political views, radicalism among Nottinghamshire stocking weavers or US neo-imperial policy in Africa at the drop of a hat, but ask me today’s date or where I put my spectacles and there is a very slim chance I will remember. All of which is to excuse myself for having couched the below request for help in particularly graceless terms! I fear I was somewhat distracted.

I am bringing out new editions of Murder in Samarkand and The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, both of which are now out of print. They will be available as print-on-demand books on Amazon (I know, sorry). I need a new front cover for Murder in Samarkand, as the art work does not belong to me, and frankly I never liked it anyway. I am inviting those with an artistic bent to submit designs.

The side and back will be plain, so it is front cover only. The size is 8″ by 5″. The image needs to be at least 300dpi. The design should include the title, author’s name and two review quotes:

“A fearless book by a fearless man” – Harold Pinter
“A remarkable achievement” – Noam Chomsky

I should like to offer a prize, but am more than usually skint! I shall be very grateful for anything you can come up with, that reflects the content and themes of the book in some way. The contact button at the top of the blog sends me an email.

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The Scottish Council Elections Are a Huge Test – Subsequent Attempted Backroom Deals Will Reveal the Black Soul of Scottish Labour

Theresa May herself set out to portray the Scottish Council Elections as a test of opinion on a second Independence referendum, and followed that up by an attack on the very principle of devolution and a stark re-assertion of the power of Westminster control. She did so in the – not unreasonable – expectation that the Tories will make gains in Scottish councils from an extremely low base. If the Tories get anything over 22% of votes cast the media will tell us that is a stunning rejection of Independence.

Local councils are important in themselves, but this year’s Council elections will have a much wider significance in giving the SNP momentum to go into the Independence referendum. The SNP will make much greater gains which will at least give the BBC some headache in preparing their “Unionist Triumph” narrative. The Tories will look to advance in Edinburgh. Sadly Ruth Davidson is my constituency MSP, but fortunately my councillor is Alasdair Rankin, Edinburgh City Council’s Finance Convener. This year is the fortieth anniversary of my meeting Alasdair who very quickly became and remains one of my, and my family’s, closest friends. So it will be an unusual pleasure for me to get out and knock on some doors for him.

Scottish elections are conducted under the excellent STV system, which I advocate for all elections. I want to make an extremely important point to all Independence supporters. Unlike the De Hondt system used for Holyrood, under STV it is impossible to damage the chances of the SNP – or your other Independence supporting party of choice – by using all your lower preference numbers for other Independence supporting candidates, and it is essential that you do. James Kelly explains it here.

The Holyrood De Hondt system is so terrible that it is perfectly possible for intelligent people of goodwill to disagree severely over whether voting just for one party or for two will help the Independence cause, and the answer is far from plain even after the vote. I respectfully differ from James Kelly and Stuart Campbell on the question. But none of these problems arise with STV. This is so important I am going to say it again, in super-shouty

IN THE SCOTTISH COUNCIL ELECTIONS IT IS MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO HURT YOUR FIRST CHOICE PARTY BY USING ALL YOUR LOWER PREFERENCES FOR OTHER PRO-INDY CANDIDATES.

So if you have three SNP candidates on your list make them preferences 1, 2, 3, but then be certain to carry on 4, 5, 6 each for other pro-Indy candidates. Or the same principle with your other preferred pro-indy party first.

I have now meandered to the point of this post. In council by-elections every week, we are seeing the unionist party voters transfer their lower preferences to each other. Tory voters are perfectly happy to transfer and support Labour, and Labour voters are perfectly happy to transfer to Tory. This is the most important fact in modern Scottish politics. It is not just the Blairite leadership, it is the dwindling rump of Labour voters who are Red Tories – or probably more accurately Orange Lodgers. Peeling off the remaining decent left wing Labour voters from their Neanderthal colleagues is probably the simpler of the SNP’s electoral challenges.

There is another factor which I do not expect to come into play in time for the Council elections. The Tory triumphalism masks a deep split. Scottish Conservatives have a Fox/Forsyth/Fallon hardline nutter tendency. But they also have a core of traditionalist supporters who are urbane, liberal and strongly pro-EU. May is still in her honeymoon period – if you remember even Gordon Brown had one of those for quite a while – but quite a few of the Tory inhabitants of the leafier parts of Edinburgh feel disquiet at her harsh Brexiteer nationalism and dismissal of devolution.

We only have to check the Tory bandwagon slightly to encourage dissent among those pulling it.

But the key test for Scottish politics will come after the votes have been cast, when the new councillors start meeting in the backrooms of council chambers up and down the country. In effect, the SNP is likely to be the largest group very widely indeed. If SNP supporters have used their lower preferences well, it is very possible that they will be able in many places to form local coalitions with the Greens and other pro-Indy groups and individuals.

But it is also very likely that we will see on a much wider and larger scale, something which has been already seen from time to time in places like Dundee and Stirling. Labour and the Tories will form coalitions together to keep the SNP out.

The truth is that Scotland already has a two party system – the SNP and the Unionists. In Holyrood, in Council Chambers and in council by-election vote transfers, the Unionists act as one party. The backroom deals of Scottish councils after the May elections will define Scottish politics. For a classic example of a failure to stop digging when you are in a massive hole, and a brazen declaration of pro-Tory sentiment, I give you Scottish Labour’s Doug Hothersall on their Labour Hame website:

Labour is not a unionist party. But in stark constitutional times, our commitment to solidarity and wealth redistribution means we are right to be firmly a pro-UK party. We should be proud of that stance and those principles. We should not indulge in back-slapping and posturing about never working alongside others who are firmly pro the UK.
If there is a second independence referendum, I will share a platform with any mainstream party which is prepared to work together to fight against nationalism. Our party should grow up and make the same pledge.

In Hothersall’s case, it is not a failure to realise that he is supporting a deeply unpleasant British nationalism. it is that he knowingly supports that British nationalism. That makes him a typical example of the rump Scottish Labour supporter. The evidence from local election transfers if that the remaining Labour voters mostly agree with him. But they are thankfully a small and shrinking group of dull bigots. Also do not forget the corruption, graft and jobs network that Scottish Labour has been. Prising them out of council chambers will be a death blow to that already shrivelled demon of Labour patronage.

I know I should tell you that local elections are important because of schools, pavements and all that important everyday stuff. That is a truism. But I am not into politics because of a deep interest in having sewerage systems and traffic lights properly managed. I want to see a free Scotland that can no longer be forced against its will to participate in illegal wars. I am hugely looking forward to campaigning in the impending Independence Referendum, but do not overlook the importance of the council elections. They are a vital step along the way.

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Theresa May Moves to Replace Devolution with Westminster Control

Forget media spin. Read Theresa May’s actual unvarnished words. In Glasgow today she notified Scotland of a specific intention for Westminster to intervene in devolved areas to “improve outcomes” in Scotland. There is no other possible logical analysis of the following long passage:

But the devolution of powers across the United Kingdom must not mean we become a looser and weaker union.
We cannot allow our United Kingdom to drift apart.
For too long the attitude in Whitehall has been to ‘devolve and forget’.
But as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I am just as concerned that young people in Dundee get a good start in life and receive the education they need to reach their full potential as I am about young people in Doncaster and Dartford.
I care as much about the dignity and security of older people on both sides of the River Tweed or the Irish Sea.
The economic prosperity of the UK as a whole depends on young people in all parts of the UK having the skills they need to reach their full potential.
And people who have worked hard all their lives and made a contribution to society are everyone’s concern.
It goes back to the fundamental unity of the British people which underwrites our whole existence as a United Kingdom.
We are all diminished when any part of the UK is held back, and we all share in the success when we prosper.
In Government that principle is called ‘collective responsibility’.
We need to build a new ‘collective responsibility’ across the United Kingdom, which unites all layers of government, to work positively together to improve the lives of everyone in our country.
As the Government serving the whole United Kingdom, formed in a Parliament drawn from the whole United Kingdom, the UK Government exercises a responsibility on behalf of the whole UK that transcends party politics and encompasses all aspects of our national life.
While fully respecting, and indeed strengthening, the devolution settlements and the devolved administrations across the UK, we must unashamedly assert this fundamental responsibility on our part.
So in those reserved policy areas where we govern directly for the whole United Kingdom, we will explicitly look to the interests of the Union – both the parts and the whole – in our policy-making.
And in policy areas where responsibilities are devolved, we will look for ways to collaborate and work together with the devolved administrations to improve the outcomes for everyone.

The meaning could not be more clear, especially following a long litany of claims that SNP rule in Holyrood had failed in every area of devolved power. You can read the full text here.

May seems to be suffering an extraordinary degree of hubris; she sees the Tories having achieved very slightly over half of the SNP vote at the Holyrood elections as a sign of mass popularity. She is laying down that Unionism means Unionism just as purely as Brexit means Brexit. Devolution is only represented in her speech as an evil that must be guarded against.

It is perhaps unsurprising that May did not mention anywhere that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and did not mention any possibility for special provision in Scotland’s future relationship with the EU. But that she did not even pay lip service to the notion of devolution as a good thing is surprising, and I am frankly astonished that she boldly asserted an intention for greater Westminster interference in current devolved areas.

This is a colossal act of hubris from a woman confident she faces no serious political resistance. That she adopts in Glasgow the false Thatcher like voice and rhetorical style that goes down so well with UKIP leaning Tories is indicative of the shallowness of her experience and the depth of her misjudgement.

Theresa May’s declaration of war on devolution today will come to be seen as a key moment in our path to Independence.

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In the Conference Hall or on the Pavement

I shall be speaking in Leeds today either in the conference hall or on a nearby pavement. The meeting entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” is due to take place at 6pm in the Conference Auditorium GM 01, which I am told is the big building behind The Edge sports centre. Do come if you are within reach. I shall be leaving for Leeds shortly.

Apparently the trustees of Leeds University Union will decide during the day whether I should be permitted to speak in a university building this evening. Being a polite sort of chap, I spoke with a very friendly lady for a considerable while this morning clarifying my views on Israel. I remain appalled by the process, but believe the outcome is likely to be positive. I expect the meeting will go ahead. This is the email I sent yesterday evening in response to the demand to pre-vet my speech:

This is very difficult as I do not write speeches in advance. I always speak off the cuff. I object to this procedure on principle, and have just posted this on my blog:

I am giving a talk entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” in Leeds University tomorrow. I have just been told by Leeds University Union I will not be allowed to speak unless I submit what I am going to say for pre-vetting.
I am truly appalled that such a gross restriction on freedom of speech should be imposed anywhere, let alone in a university where intellectual debate is meant to be an essential part of the learning experience. I really do not recognise today’s United Kingdom as the same society I grew up in. The common understanding that the values of a liberal democracy are the foundation of society appears to have evaporated.
As regular readers know well, I do not write speeches in advance but always speak extempore. My opinions on Israel and Palestine are very well documented on this blog and elsewhere. I want to see a single, unitary state in Israel/Palestine, encompassing everyone who currently lives in those territories, as a secular democracy blind to ethnicity and religion. This includes an acceptance that further forced large population movements by anybody are not desirable and the Palestinians should receive more compensation than restitution. If I am not permitted to express this view within a University, I find that truly shocking.
I should be equally shocked if anybody who held views very different to my own were not permitted to express them.
I think that if people like me are now being prevented from speaking, society has crossed a very dangerous line indeed.
I attempted to contact Leeds University Union before posting this, but was told by your after hours help desk that they have no means of contacting any person in a responsible position out of hours, not even to pass on my phone number. I find that extraordinary.

Let me state at the start that I have spoken in many scores of Universities, all around the world, including Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard etc and several times each at the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. I have never at any time encountered any violence, disruption or even heated dispute at any of my hundreds of talks, anywhere. There has never been any risk to anybody present. I always encourage discussion and positively welcome the polite expression of contrary views.

As I said, I do not write speeches in advance. But this is the outline of what I intend to say.

While I dislike agreeing with Donald Trump, he was quite right in dismissing the idea that there is an unquestionable two state solution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine. For many years now a two state solution has been impractical. The Palestinian territories are separated, overcrowded and devoid of natural resources, most tellingly water.

As a younger man I was in charge of the South Africa (Political) Desk of the FCO. The grand plan of apartheid was that the white population would have unique right of residence in most of South Africa, with the black population corralled into crowded and resourceless Bantustans, many commuting into the white areas as a cheap labour force. These Bantustans were, according to the masterplan of apartheid, to be recognised as Independent states. The FCO had a current struggle to head off Mrs Thatcher’s desire to indeed recognise the first of them, Bophutatswana, as independent after apartheid South Africa recognised it.

The parallels between the Bantustan plan and the “two state solution” are obvious and the high profile supporters of the “two state solution” are insincere. In 2002 Blair and Bush announced in the Rosa Garden they were jointly proposing the “two state solution”. Their motivation was precisely the same as Thatcher’s in pushing for support of the proposed state of Bophutatswana – to allow the formal marginalisation of the indigenous population from their land. The “two state” Palestine was never intended to be viable.

If the neo-con supporters of two states really believed what they pretended, why did they never recognise a Palestinian state? The timing and motivation of the Bush/Blair announcement was a figleaf for Saudi support of the invasion of Iraq a few months later.

The truth is that the massive injustice done in the removal of the Palestinian peoples from their lands must be addressed. Peace in the Middle East will not be possible otherwise. The Israeli people will never achieve security through intransigence.

I was also once Head of Cyprus Section of the FCO and heavily involved in UN negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus. I see many parallels between the situations in Palestine and Cyprus and believe elements of the proposed UN Cyprus peace talks might provide a blueprint for Israel/Palestine, particularly in its federal and security aspects.

I shall then move on to wider questions of Middle Eastern policy, along the lines of this talk I gave to the Edinburgh SNP Club a couple of weeks ago. You can see that here

I shall then address troubling aspects of the British/Israeli governmental relationship, including over drone killing policy, drawing on the talk I gave to the Noam Chomsky symposium at University College London last week. I attach a brief abstract of that talk. I shall also refer to the recent Al Jazeera documentary “The Lobby” and the Shai Masot case.

I do hope that is all helpful to you. I appreciate it is probably not your fault you occupy for this moment the role of thought police, but hope you realise how very wrong and undemocratic this all is. I have complied with the request to outline as best I can what I am going to say purely out of courtesy to you and Leeds University Union. It is not open to debate or negotiation.

Craig Murray

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Leeds University Union Threaten to Ban My Speech on Palestine

I am giving a talk entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” in Leeds University tomorrow. I have just been told by Leeds University Union I will not be allowed to speak unless I submit what I am going to say for pre-vetting.

I am truly appalled that such a gross restriction on freedom of speech should be imposed anywhere, let alone in a university where intellectual debate is meant to be an essential part of the learning experience. I really do not recognise today’s United Kingdom as the same society I grew up in. The common understanding that the values of a liberal democracy are the foundation of society appears to have evaporated.

As regular readers know well, I do not write speeches in advance but always speak extempore. My opinions on Israel and Palestine are very well documented on this blog and elsewhere. I want to see a single, unitary state in Israel/Palestine, encompassing everyone who currently lives in those territories, as a secular democracy blind to ethnicity and religion. This includes an acceptance that further forced large population movements by anybody are not desirable and the Palestinians should receive more compensation than restitution. If I am not permitted to express this view within a University, I find that truly shocking.

I should be equally shocked if anybody who held views very different to my own were not permitted to express them.

I think that if people like me are now being prevented from speaking, society has crossed a very dangerous line indeed.

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Give Generously and Give Freedom Wings

I urge anybody with the remotest interest in fairness and justice to donate to the Wings Over Scotland fundraising appeal. Against the biased BBC and a 97.5% rabid unionist media, against DFID money fed in through Acanchi and the entirely fake No Borders campaign, against Saudi money fed in through the Ulster bigots of the DUP, Wings Over Scotland really is the most effective, wide reaching and important media of communication available to the Scottish Independence movement. Anybody who can afford something, and agrees that in a democracy both sides of a ballot ought to be heard, should donate. The second Independence referendum is indeed coming.

To be plain I have no connection at all to Wings Over Scotland and do not stand to receive anything from this appeal. I am donating myself.

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