Monthly Archives: May 2017


Amber Rudd Really Is that Horrible

A multi-millionairess like all the Tory elite, Amber Rudd truly is every bit as horrible as the persona she exhibited on the BBC Leaders’ Debate this evening. A former banker with J P Morgan, she was also a director of two offshore tax avoidance asset management firms in the Bahamas. She never declared this and the information came out in a leak.

The refined journalists of the Financial Times are of course much more her choice for public engagement than having to stoop to discuss policy in front of the great unwashed, for whom she has a profound contempt. This is what she thinks of her constituents in Hastings:

“You get people who are on benefits, who prefer to be on benefits by the seaside. They’re not moving down here to get a job, they’re moving down here to have easier access to friends and drugs and drink.”

So why did she go to Hastings to represent such awful plebs? She explained that to her friends at the Financial Times as well:

“I wanted to be within two hours of London and I could see we were going to win it.”

According to the normally reliable CompanyCheck, as an MP Amber Rudd has constituted herself as a company, presumably for purposes of tax avoidance. That would of course give her a personal interest in low levels of corporation tax. But strangely Companies House itself has no company with the registration number given by CompanyCheck.

What Company House does have, however, are the records of Monticello PLC, a short lived company of which Rudd was a Director. It attracted many hundreds of investors who put money in, despite never appearing actually to do anything except pay its directors – presumably including Rudd. Trawling through its documents at Companies House, I find it difficult to conclude that it was ever anything other than a share ramping scheme designed to rip off its investors. After just over a year of existence it went bankrupt with over £1.2 million of debts and no important assets. I should be very interested if anybody can go through those records and come up with any different conclusion to mine.

Interestingly Amber Rudd’s father Tony, who died this week, had been debarred as a company director after being found to have asset stripped another investor vehicle, Greenbank Trust, and misused its assets to personal benefit. As with Emma Barnett, we again come across a wealthy Tory whose privileged upbringing was financed by the criminal behaviour of the wealthy.

It is a bit of a stretch to imagine that, nationally, Labour will get the 4.7% swing that would be needed to oust Rudd from Hastings. But perhaps it is not too much to hope that there may be a local revolt from the people she despises.

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A Dream of Irony

The sectarian nature of the extreme attack by Tory politicians and mainstream media journalists (and it is genuinely difficult to tell which is which) on Jeremy Corbyn over alleged IRA links is extremely troubling. Not one MSM journalist or Tory has even acknowledged the existence of loyalist terrorists or British government atrocities, either by secret agents or in events like Bloody Sunday or the murders of Pat Finucane or Peter McBride. Yes, IRA atrocities were appalling. But they were by no means the only ones, and the Troubles arose from centuries of colonial injustice.

One reason this Tory attack does not have great traction is that everyone under 40 is more likely to have learnt a great deal of truth from the excellent film In the Name of the Father, than to have experienced the violence on both sides. The failure of the media in this election, while constantly raising the Troubles, to mention the Birmingham Six or the Guildford Four – for both of which Corbyn campaigned – does not stop people knowing those terrible abuses of state power happened. I speak as someone whose office windows were shattered by an IRA mortar.

So after all this truly dreadful Tory attempt to slit open old wounds to hold power, would it not be the most delicious irony, in the event of a hung parliament, if Sinn Fein finally took up their Westminster seats, in order to make up the numbers to support Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10?

We could have the most wonderful Labour/Nationalist coalition of the working class and the oppressed peoples of the islands – Labour/SNP/Sinn Fein/Plaid Cymru. And Caroline Lucas.

I do not in the least expect this to happen. But I am rather hopeful this post has severely annoyed some old Tories.

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24 Hours in Politics

This post, and particularly the last paragraph, was not predicated on the YouGove poll predicting a hung parliament – I continue to have no faith in the integrity of that company. I started writing this yesterday based on my own feeling that we could be heading into hung parliament territory. I was however motivated to return to and update this draft by the YouGove poll.

I yesterday watched Michael Gove shouting (literally) about Jeremy Corbyn supporting the IRA and Hamas on The Daily Politics, looking like an agitated tomato in spectacles. Because the mainstream media and political class live in the same utterly unrepresentative bubble, they do not realise that the large majority of ordinary people do not share their detestation of the Palestinians.

Subsequently we had Theresa May spouting utter rubbish about Corbyn going “alone and naked into the negotiating chamber”. 99% of the actual negotiating is done by teams of civil servants. Neither May nor Corbyn would be alone, they would have the same civil servants. Plus Corbyn would of course have Keir Starmer QC.

May’s jibe was supposed to echo Aneurin Bevan but it failed entirely, as the possession or otherwise of a nuclear weapon is irrelevant to the EU negotiations. The entirely spurious “alone” was not in Bevan’s quote and I can find no rational explanation of what it was supposed to mean. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the whole irrelevant jibe was designed just to set up the titter at the image of Jeremy Corbyn naked. This really has been the most appalling Tory campaign imaginable, aimed at nobody but the nastiest kind of UKIP voter.

For the BBC to lead all its news bulletins on Corbyn’s inability instantly to recall the figure on childcare costs was puerile bias. Anyone can forget a figure. Politics is not a memory test. The attempt to reduce it to such is of course made heinous by differential application. When Tories have the same, perfectly natural problem of instant recall – as when the Chancellor was £20 billion out on the cost of HS2 – it gets nothing like the media coverage given to Corbyn and Abbott.

On which point, my last posting was about the SNP’s excellent manifesto. It was perfectly possible to sit here in Edinburgh yesterday, paying a great deal of attention to the BBC, and have no idea whatsoever of the SNP manifesto’s actual contents. Equally mystifying was the Daily Politics’ attack line against the SNP. How dare they have policies for the UK when they cannot form a government at Westminster? Angus Robertson replied politely that these were the policies their MPs would advocate at Westminster, and potentially support the implementation of, depending on the electoral arithmetic. The BBC reporter flared at this and seemed outraged that the SNP have the temerity to stand for election at all. It was truly bizarre television.

We are seeing more truly bizarre television every day as the mainstream media are puzzled and disconcerted that the plebs are simply refusing to ignore their obviously correct preference for the Tory party, instead having this mad desire to think for themselves. The media remind me of the puzzled look on Ceaucescu’s face as the crowd started chanting against him. The utterly talentless Tory hack Anne McElvoy was on BBC Breakfast today oozing contempt for Corbyn and explaining why his forgetting a number on Radio 4 proved he could not govern. She appeared completely divorced from reality.

And finally, it is remarkable that the Mays’ appearance on the One programme last week was featured again and again on BBC Breakfast and even on Sky News the next morning, with BBC vox pops “showing how impressed the public were with her” and Tory commentators speaking about how lovely and ordinary she was. Last night Jeremy Corbyn was on the One Show, and by the starkest of contrasts I have found no coverage of it at all this morning.

As the polls continue to shift, there is one distinct possibility for the result of this General Election looming. The Tories might be the largest party but with no overall majority. In which case they would form either a formal or a de facto alliance with their friends in the Northern Irish unionist parties. This would either force the unionists to take ownership of hard Brexit and the consequent imposition of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, or force Theresa May to abandon hard Brexit and outrage her supporters. I suspect the former is more likely, and the consequences of unionist enabled hard Brexit for Northern Ireland would be immense.

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A Manifesto We All Should Support

I am delighted to say I can offer my full and unreserved backing to the SNP manifesto, launched today.

Key points are:

1) No Trident missiles
2) Full reversal of Tory benefit cuts
3) £118 billion of extra spending over the parliament for investment and to end austerity
4) Reversal of NHS privatisations
5) 50p top rate of income tax
6) Raising the minimum wage to the real living wage, and ending public sector pay caps.

There is of course much more and you can read the full manifesto here.

It is absolutely plain that there is a broad consensus among progressive parties in the UK, and that under Corbyn, Labour has regained the right to be considered a progressive party. Of course detail is not precisely the same, but Corbyn and the SNP are recognisably motivated by similar values of social justice. That is why I continue to urge Corbyn supporters in Scotland to lend their votes to the SNP in order to return the maximum number of anti-Tory MP’s to Westminster.

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The Sins of the Father

UPDATED: Having spent the afternoon researching, the evidence tends to support Emma Barnett’s claim that she had been personally unaware that her family’s wealthy lifestyle was funded by the pimping and sex-trafficking activities of her parents. The emails between herself and her father about “whores” referenced by the Manchester Evening News, contained denials by her father to Emma that he remained involved. I therefore have here deleted my earlier entry which suggested the existence of these emails may argue against her claim of ignorance.

But it is the wealth of her background rather than the source of the funds which concerns me here. As a Telegraph and Sunday Times columnist, it is pretty hard to argue that Barnett is not “out” as a wealthy Tory – just like Robinson, Kuenssberg, Paxman, Andrew Neil et al. In choosing a Telegraph columnist to interview Corbyn today for Women’s Hour, the BBC yet again is making no attempt at all to hide the massive Tory bias of its political journalism.

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“No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal”?

These are some of the inevitable and automatic consequences of “No deal” with the EU:

1) A fenced hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, likely re-igniting the Troubles
2) 900,000 UK citizens resident in EU countries have to return back to live in UK
3) Tariffs on all UK goods exported to the EU, almost certainly triggering a major recession
4) Massive bureaucratic non-tariff barriers to British exports – sixty pages of forms for every consignment
4) No access to the Schengen database and other EU security and policing resources
5) British citizens need to apply for visas to visit EU countries and stand in two hour long queues at many EU airports
6) UK universities removed from World’s leading scientific and research programmes.

Those are just for starters. These are the natural consequences of not being an EU member. They could be seriously mitigated by negotiating a deal. But they are inevitably what “No deal” means.

I have not included the massive harm that would hit the UK economy if EU citizens were deported as a result of “No deal”, because that is not a necessary consequence. The UK could unilaterally decide to allow them to stay. Sadly such wisdom is improbable.

So when Theresa May states “No deal is better than a bad deal” she is talking absolute nonsense. It is a ludicrous display of machismo from the “leader” of a country which has put itself into an extremely weak negotiating position.

“No deal is better than a bad deal” went down very well with the leaders’ audience on Channel 4/Sky last night. It is shorthand for “we will reduce immigration and we don’t care how much it hurts us”. Both Brexit and the Tories represent at base a visceral xenophobia, nothing more and nothing less. The slogan appeals to racists.

Jeremy Paxman failed to push Theresa May at all on the stupidity of the “No deal” slogan yesterday, instead just giving her the opportunity to repeat it again and again to the applause of morons. I like to believe that Theresa May is not stupid enough to believe what she is saying, but the more I see her…

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Paxman Pushes 100% Tory Agenda

There are enough viewers for the televised questioning and interviews of Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May tonight to have some effect on the election. May finished with a very positive reaction from a substantial section of the audience to the repeated assertion that “No deal is better than a bad deal” with the EU. She was playing to her xenophobic, UKIP-leaning core support. Why this kind of deranged nonsense is apparently not alienating more urbane Tories in greater numbers, I do not really know. I presume they believe they can control her.

I think that Corbyn came over as calm, likeable and humorous, whereas May came over as tense and unpleasant. Again the tension and narrowing of the eyes when asked a hostile question was truly striking. But what struck me most was another quite stunning demonstration of media bias.

Paxman interrupted Corbyn while he was answering very much more often than he did May. But the true bias came over in the selection of questions asked.

It was widely reported in the Sunday press that the Tories were to refocus their failing election campaign on Brexit. So what did Paxman concentrate on in his interview with May? Brexit. He opened the short interview on the subject of Brexit, and crucially he returned to Brexit for the closing three minutes, allowing May to repeat again and again the slogan “No deal is better than a bad deal”, which obviously was going down very well with her supporters in the audience.

Paxman appeared to be asking for clarification of what it meant in giving her the chance to repeat it again and again, but made no argument as to why it is a fantastically stupid idea in this context.

By contrast Paxman spent the entire interview with Jeremy Corbyn on no subject at all except the Tory chosen subjects to attack Corbyn – alleged support for terrorism, reluctance to fire nuclear weapons or murder in drone strikes, lack of support for patriotism/the monarchy.

The equivalent treatment for May would have been to spend the entire time focused on the Labour preferred subjects – the NHS, education, benefit cuts for the disabled. In fact, Paxman only grilled May on security, immigration and Brexit, the chosen Tory subjects, other than a token reference to social care, on which Paxman let off May extremely lightly over her lying about the U-turn on the manifesto.

While Paxman’s questions were superficially hostile, by choosing only favourite Tory subjects he gave May an easy get-out. The equivalent fake-hostile question to Corbyn to allow him onto a favourite subject would be “You say you will abolish tuition fees. But surely the economy cannot afford that?”

There were nil such questions allowing Corbyn to move on to one of his favourite subjects. May received nothing else. Paxman is an openly acknowledged Conservative. That was very plain this evening. But despite all his efforts, Corbyn will still have shaded it with all except those primarily motivated by racism.

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Scottish and Love Jeremy Corbyn? Then Vote SNP.

There has been a steady decline in the SNP vote in Scottish opinion polls during the General election campaign, and a steady recovery in the Labour vote from a very low base. At the same time, support for Independence has been stable or even growing – the latest Scottish poll asking the question puts support for Independence at 54%. And digging down into the data tables of recent polls, the concomitant is indeed true. A quarter to a third of those currently identifying as Labour voters in Scotland support Independence.

As I have frequently demonstrated, the Scottish electorate is indeed substantially to the left of the English electorate on economic issues. This is not a myth. What appears to be happening is that some Labour voters who deserted the party when the SNP were substantially to the left of Labour, are returning to Labour enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign.

I was down this weekend at the Merthyr Rising Festival and it is impossible not to be swept up in the joy that so many people feel at seeing a genuine alternative economic policy offered by Jeremy Corbyn at an election for the first time in a generation. Renationalisation and an end to austerity, and an ethical foreign policy, are things to be excited about. I get it – a sledgehammer is being taken to the blockwork surrounding the Overton window. Who would not want to show support for that?

The latest opinion poll shows
SNP 39%
Conservative 29%
Labour 25%

Not including this, the last poll of polls showed
SNP 42%
Conservative 29%
Labour 22%

(All polling referenced can be found on the Scot Goes Pop website linked above).

The iniquity of the first past the post system is such, that the drift of support from SNP to Labour risks handing up to a dozen seats to the Tories, while potentially gaining only 2 or 3 seats for Labour – and only from the SNP.

If Labour continues, despite Manchester, to advance in the UK wide polls it only requires a further swing of perhaps 2% from Tory to Labour before polling day before we are potentially in hung parliament territory. It therefore could be absolutely essential that the combined Labour/SNP MP’s outnumber the Tories. It would be a huge tragedy if the Tories were to get an overall majority simply because some Scottish voters who like Corbyn switched from SNP to Labour, and thus let the Tories in.

The case of Edinburgh South is arguable, but Edinburgh South aside, there is no constituency in Scotland where for Corbyn supporters to vote SNP risks helping the Tory. I realise that tactical voting is a complex ethical question, but if you want your vote to have practical effect, rather than act as a form of personal expression, it is essential that Scottish Corbyn supporters vote SNP, and most especially in rural constituencies.

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Tories Losing Daily Mail Readers and in Disarray

You need to don a pretty hefty moral armour before immersing yourself in the comments section of the Daily Mail, but this general election has seen a huge disconnect between the toxic propaganda that the Daily Mail pumps out, and the views of its readers. I should make plain that historically there is no evidence whatsoever that the Mail’s more left wing readers are more likely to leave comment. The threads are usually dominated by strong support for the Tory/UKIP narrative. But this election campaign has seen growing evidence of swelling dissent from the Tory campaign and the line it is taking.

Tonight the Mail has posted as its headline political story, a claim by Amber Rudd that the election of Jeremy Corbyn would increase terrorism. This is pretty appalling, crude stuff set out in the way the Mail believes will appeal to its readers.

But the readers’ reaction is not at all what the Mail is expecting. The Mail has a useful system whereby people can both upvote and downvote a comment and both scores are shown. The most popular comment on this article is the pithy “While her boss sells arms to the Saudis” by Jill in Kent. A large majority of the comments abhor the Tory exploitation of the terror attacks. When even Daily Mail readers find you too tastelessly right wing, you really are in trouble.

The mainstream media continue to move in lockstep. After the social care debacle they appear determined to continue to push terrorism as the dominant issue in the election. The calculation is that perceived Tory strength on this issue will arrest the Tory slide, and it might be argued from recent opinion polls that the Tory decline has at least become less steep. But public distaste at this Tory shroud-waving will accelerate the longer it continues. Expect the media to try to shift the narrative again on Monday, probably back to Trident.

The Tories’ house magazine, the Spectator, has not waited until the election is over to turn on Theresa May. Again the comments sections are worth perusing – while paid-up Tories will still vote Tory, they are not happy at all. May’s paranoia and self-regard are reflected in her choice of dullards for her senior colleagues. The result is that many of the smarter people in her party are feeling excluded. That was not a problem when she was romping home on a carpet of media-induced artificial popularity. But now the going is getting tough, the Tory Party is not a happy place. To mishandle the campaign so badly the Tories are losing Daily Mail readers, is an act of extraordinary political ineptitude.

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The BBC Making the Election about Terrorism

On the very lowest estimates, the number of children killed by violence alone directly as a result of fighting in the Iraq invasion and occupation, is the equivalent of a Manchester massacre every single day for eight years.

I am going to write that again.

On the very lowest estimates, the number of children killed by violence alone directly as a result of fighting in the Iraq invasion and occupation, is the equivalent of a Manchester massacre every single day for eight years.

That in no way justifies the massacre in Manchester. Andrew Neil is quite intelligent enough to know that the notion that to explain is to excuse is illogical. The difference between Neil’s interview with Corbyn and his interview with May is that with May, Neil asked tough sceptical questions. With Corbyn, Neil put positions based on inflammatory emotion which Neil knows full well to be false. Nevertheless, Corbyn undoubtedly came out of it much better than May had done, not least for simply having the intelligence to react to the actual question being asked.

If I tell you that smoking causes cancer, it does not make me a supporter of cancer.

The fact that our invasions and bombings abroad inevitably have blowback in this world of globalised population settlement, is so evidently true it is ludicrous to deny it. There have been hate crimes against Muslims already since the Manchester attack. If we lost that many children every day for eight years, does anybody seriously wish to say there would not be extremist terrorist “Britnat” violence as a result? Of course there would.

After what we have done to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya and are abetting in Yemen, the surprise is not that we have suffered terrorist attack. The surprise is that we have not suffered more terrorist attack.

I suspect a great many more of the public realise that, than the inhabitants of the media/politico bubble wish to believe. There is no doubt that having Corbyn as the candidate has done a huge service in making it compulsory for the media to refer to views outside of the Overton window, and the invective and sheer hatred with which they have reacted is truly remarkable.

I commented at the last General Election that having Nicola Sturgeon in the leaders’ debate putting the arguments against Trident, exposed the English public to an argument from which they are normally rigorously shielded. Neil’s sheer horror that thinking outside the Blairite/Tory spectrum is being done came over strongly in his interview with Corbyn. It is of course as nothing to the horror of the Blairites. I have seen Charles Clark, Alan Johnson, Jess Phillips and John Woodcock all directly attack Corbyn during the course of this election. I am not a Labour party member, but surely that is going to have to result in expulsion from the party. Many ordinary members have been suspended for much milder and infinitely less publicised criticism of Blairites.

During the 2005 election, the BBC never once invited Jeremy Corbyn on air to attack Tony Blair over the bloody invasion of Iraq. So why are they filling the airwaves with Blairites attacking Corbyn now? The extraordinary thing is, they are counting these Blairites’ attack on Corbyn as Labour representation for their legal obligation of equal air-time during an election.

If the BBC really think that this is an election about the history of the Troubles, why have they not asked Theresa May whether she supports the actions of British troops on Bloody Sunday?

I am speaking this morning at the Merthy Rising Festival and hope to have the opportunity to make some of these points. Do come along if you are in the area.

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Those Theresa May Police Cuts

Here is a vivid illustration of how Theresa May crippled the Police during her seven years as Home Secretary. The figures and charts are from an official parliamentary document. I have merely added the wobbly red lines to indicate when Theresa May became Home Secretary. It is extremely plain what she did to the police.

Red Line = Theresa May Becomes Homes Secretary

Red Line = Theresa May Becomes Home Secretary

Red Line = Theresa May Becomes Homes Secretary

Red Line = Theresa May Becomes Homes Secretary

MEANWHILE IN SCOTLAND

This is a matter of choice by Theresa May. In Scotland in exactly the same period, policing was devolved to Holyrood. The SNP faced precisely the same budgetary pressures as the Home Office, but managed to maintain police numbers.

It is also worth noting that we were not comparatively over-policed. England and Wales are now well below the norm.

Finally this stunning riposte to the BBC tweeting out Tory propaganda.

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That Critical Threat

The news from Manchester continues to horrify as each individual tragedy gets confirmed in all its heart-rending detail.

In my two posts in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester bombing, I concluded:

If it was a home made bomb, it was a remarkably powerful one. It would be very unusual for a lone terrorist to be able to make a bomb this powerful. It is hard to think of any incident where an individual acting entirely alone has successfully done that.

It has become plain that the reason the critical warning has been declared (which is British for State of Emergency) is that the security services believe such a powerful portable bomb almost certainly requires organisational support to build it. I was subject to accusations that I was secretly suggesting that this attack was perpetrated by the British state, in order to influence the election. It is undoubtedly true that the timing of the attack is remarkable – it came as Tory poll ratings were plummeting, Theresa May had just made the screeching U-turn or pretended U-turn on social care, and then appeared totally out of her depth in the Andrew Neil interview, destroying her “who do you trust” narrative.

In fact, nothing I wrote can in any way be construed as indicating I thought that the British state was implicated in the attack. For the record, I do not think it is remotely likely the British state was implicated in the attack. I knew a lot of senior people in the security services, and a few in special forces, and there is not a single one I suspect would do this kind of thing, or not actively seek to stop it if they came across it. I simply discount the idea.

But the election is the elephant in the room. We cannot pretend this has no impact on the election. Historians will look back at how this did or did not affect the course of the election.

I have a number of concerns. The first is that I argued that the Russian referendum in Crimea was not legitimate because you can’t have a free and fair election with troops patrolling the streets. I still hold that view about the Crimea, and I have real concerns about proceeding with the election during, in effect, a state of emergency.

The second point is that, because I rule out a British government false flag, that does not mean that I rule out the idea that the timing of the attack was an attempt to affect the course of the election. It seems very likely that it was timed to affect the election, especially when you consider that an attack from the same kind of jihadists occurred in France just before their recent election.

You would have expected an attack with such a sophisticated bomb to be part of a pattern of more or less simultaneous attacks using similar technology. That is what the security services did expect; hence the “Critical” warning. The fact there has so far been only one attack suggests to me that it was brought forward quickly to a target of opportunity due to the snap election.

There are many non-British state and non-state groups which might wish to influence the election. Remember that the very definition of terrorism is violence with a political objective. If it does not have a political objective it is not terrorism. Let me make this observation. The ideology of virtually all “Islamic” terrorism stems from Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is fundamental to the very foundation of the rule of the Saudi royal family. Every known jihadist terrorist group, including ISIS, Al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda, has received funding from Saudi Arabia. Here is a fascinating article by MI6’s Alastair Crooke on Wahhabism and the “duality” of the superficially hostile ISIS/Saudi relationship. Everything we know about Salman Abedi is consistent with this influence.

Jeremy Corbyn has continually criticised Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and its devastating attacks on civilians in Yemen. Corbyn has vowed to stop arms supplies to Saudi Arabia. By contrast, Theresa May and her ministers have repeatedly visited Saudi Arabia and positively kowtowed to its rulers, and looked to increase arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Who do you think the Saudi ruling class, the World’s leading sponsors of terrorism, wish to win the General Election?

Furthermore a key part of the Saudi sponsored Sunni terrorist surge is support for Al-Nusra and the other jihadist rebel groups fighting to overthrow Assad in Syria. I do not support Assad, but neither have I ever thought it remotely sane to support a violent conflict to overthrow him and replace him with jihadist head-choppers. Yet the British establishment, and especially the Conservative Party, has been gung-ho to bomb Syria and help the jihadists to replace Assad.

Who has stood against the bombing of Syria and against British military support for the Saudi/jihadist agenda in Syria? Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP.

I have no doubt whatsoever the jihadists would try to influence the election, and try to influence it against Corbyn. As the great journalist John Pilger said yesterday of this possibility that ISIS are trying to influence the election against Corbyn and the SNP:

“They know how to intervene in public discourse every day and in politics every day. So that suggestion may well have a great deal of validity.”

Security issues traditionally play well for the right in an election. At time of attack there is a tendency to rally to authority figures. Rather than a very inadequate politician under fire, the Prime Minister has been able to appear in an entirely unchallenged setting as a figure of patriotism. Let me be 100% clear. It is not that May has done anything wrong; it is just that these effects are what the terrorists are probably counting on.

So in our hearts we must never forget the unfortunate victims of this bombing, so young and with so much talent. We must remember the horribly maimed as well as the dead, and ensure they receive all the support they need. We must condemn without ceasing the disgusting violence that destroys so many lives.

But we must also do something very difficult. We must press in our heads a reset button. We must remain entirely rational in considering the political choices before us, and not allow the incident to affect – in any direction – our political calculation on how to vote. Otherwise that is a major victory for the terrorists.

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The Roger Moore I Met

A brief extract from my memoir The Catholic Orangemen of Togo

On the other side of the equation, Roger Moore came out as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Fiona and I hosted a small dinner party for him. He was charming and suave, just as you would expect, with a fund of brilliant stories beginning with lines like “One day Frank, Dean, Tony and I decided to play a trick on Marilyn…” But while he played the role of Roger Moore to perfection, there was much more to him than that. He was genuinely very well briefed about children’s issues in Ghana, and was prepared not just to do the PR stuff, but to get his hands dirty helping out in refugee camps without a camera in sight. I was impressed by Roger Moore.

When I said get his hands dirty, I meant dig latrines. He really was a much better man than people realised. A celebrity who did not seek personal publicity for his good works, quite the opposite. Remember this re foxhunting:

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Murdoch is Even Viler than We Knew

This article was published on the Sun’s website at 2.50am, that is hours after the Manchester bombing.

It was updated at 09.50am, long after the decision to suspend electioneering. I am not going to link to the article, but the comments below it from the public are unanimous.

I pray that the vile people at the Sun have miscalculated, and in future the Sun will be as welcome in Manchester as in Liverpool.

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Manchester Should Be Very Proud

Having now seen the numerous bits of video being shown across the various Breakfast news programmes, Manchester should be very proud of itself. The audience were quite remarkably orderly leaving the arena. Of course there was a certain amount of panic, but much less than you would normally expect in such a situation. The discipline and stoicism are much more remarkable than the areas of panic, especially given the age of the audience.

It also bears repeating that the social media picture is heart-warming amid the terrible sadness. So many messages last night from people offering rooms to stay, cooking food for strangers in the middle of the night, the almost universal offers of a “brew” and a landline, the reposting of countless images to help parents re-unite with their children, the people (including taxi drivers) getting their cars out to offer free transport. In the immediate aftermath of an apparent bombing, it is plain people were much more concerned to offer help than worried about putting themselves in possible danger by opening their homes or moving into the crowds.

Finally, I have been heartened by the contempt Manchester people are showing online for those seeking to use this dreadful apparent atrocity to promote racism, intolerance or a political agenda.

If it was a home made bomb, it was a remarkably powerful one. It would be very unusual for a lone terrorist to be able to make a bomb this powerful. It is hard to think of any incident where an individual acting entirely alone has successfully done that.

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Manchester Explosion

Twitter gives an astonishing immediate insight into events in another city. Our thoughts are with those the police say are killed and injured in Manchester this evening. From eye witness reports and pictures posted on the internet, this is what I can tell so far.

There certainly was at least one large explosion, and this was consistent with a bomb. But a bomb was not the only possible explanation. however contrary to reports, the bombs does not appear to be inside the Manchester Arena.

I am somewhat handicapped as I do not know how to post short pieces of video from Facebook onto the blog. But the best evidence of the explosion so car is this video apparently from a nearby car park.

These two frames are a fraction of a second apart. It is much plainer on the video than on these stills, but in the second a huge flash of light has gone off behind the building. The area of rising ground or low structure immediately to the left of the building is more lit in the second frame, and the aurora of city light in the sky above the building is lighter and reaches further. The back of the building would be substantially illuminated. As I say, the flash is much more obvious in live action than in comparing the two frames.

A little less than a second after this flash, a major rumble is heard. This is a loud explosion. Given that from the gap between the light and the sound it is over half a mile away, it is really a big explosion.

UPDATE I now have a video I can post and you can plainly see the flash just before the sound reaches the camera. Just to the left of the building shows it best. This explosion was not confined inside.

But it is not within the Manchester Arena itself. There are plenty of photos and again videos from inside the arena.

The video from which this still is taken, for example, is apparently after the explosion because there is a certain amount of panic and screaming going on. But the video pans round the entire indoor arena and nowhere is there a sign of any damage, certainly not commensurate with the size of the explosion, and certainly nothing which would affect the integrity of the walls and ceiling sufficient to emit that great flash of light outside. Also an explosion of that size, if a bomb, would emit a very large amount of smoke, and there is very not enough smoke at all in this indoor area (there is a very little haze, but more consistent with concert pyrotechnics or dry ice). Finally, while there are the first signs of panic, an explosion of that size would have caused vastly more panic if it had not been some way distant. Most people are still holding their balloons.

There are many pictures of lobby areas too but none of these shows bomb damage or smoke either.

The dominant narrative now seems to be a nail bomb or bombs inside the arena. Nail bombs typically are not on the scale of the explosion caught outside. A nail bomb might be consistent with the lack of major damage inside the arena and lack of immediate generalised panic, but it is not consistent with the big bang and flash visible outside. It is of course not impossible there was one or more small nail bombs inside and a further bomb outside. But it is also possible the explosion was outside and the inside injuries due to panic and crush.

We should avoid jumping to conclusions on the cause, and if it is a bomb we should avoid jumping to conclusions on who planted it. There is terrible tragedy in Manchester tonight, the worse for affecting young people. But my trawl through social media also revealed a fantastic communal spirit, with ordinary people looking after each other, opening up their homes, running people around in their cars and helping reunite families. It is also excellent how many Manchester people are reacting against those trying to use this to promote racial or political agendas. I pray the number of casualties proves to be not as bad as first thought.

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The Art of Negotiation

I believe this is extremely important, but having been published a few hours before the Manchester explosions, may have missed its audience:

Theresa May performed atrociously on her interview with Andrew Neil this evening. She was patently evading or lying on every question, and as usual repeating key phrases again and again whatever she was asked. I do not think I am naïve to believe this does seriously underestimate the intelligence of the electorate.

I thought that Andrew Neil did very well. He was unusually gentle with May – he interrupted her only three times in thirty minutes, and I am willing to bet will interrupt other leaders more. But his technique worked with May, because it gave her room again and again to trot out those robotic phrases and hack off the entire nation. Whether intentional by Neil or not, she used the rope he gave her to hang herself.

Twitter thinks she did very badly by about thirteen to one. Even Tories are saying so. And I think this is the strongest proof of what people really thought:

BUT not that many people will have watched. Far more people will see news reports of the interview than saw the actual interview, and those reports will give a very different impression to the reality. Nicola Sturgeon was viewed by those who saw the full Scottish leaders’ debate as having won, but all the news bulletins merely say she was monstered by the specially planted nurse, who was on Question Time last week and was specifically invited back by the BBC. Mmay will not have been pathetic when the News reports it.

It is a fact that in all opinion polls for the last week, Labour is doing better than their performance in the 2015 General election. They will have more voters. Yet the BBC continues to produce “vox pops” in the news, which they pass off as representative, interviewing Labour voters who are converting to Tory. Of five “ordinary” voters the BBC showed in a vox pop interview from Middlesborough today, one of the five was definitely switching from Labour to Tory, and another one was “probably” going to switch from Labour to Tory which was a “game changer”. The journalist concluded the Labour Party was struggling to hang on.

But that is not what the opinion polls tell us. The Labour vote is growing not falling, and the Tory vote is indeed growing, but mostly by transfers from UKIP, not by transfers from Labour. The BBC “vox pop” gives a deliberately false impression of what is happening. There is so much they do not tell us. How did the BBC find and contact these people who are switching from Labour to Tory? How many random people did they interview? What percentage of random people they interviewed were switching to Tory, and how did they select their sample? Did they find not one person who was switching to Labour – because the polls show that people are?

This blatant and undisguised propaganda continues all day every day. Fortunately even the most sophisticated propaganda has difficulty selling ordure as birthday cake. Every time May appears, the smell is deterring buyers. How they will hide her still further for the rest of the campaign, will be fascinating to behold.

ORIGINAL POST Look at this astonishing body language from Theresa May when confronting mild contradiction.

Note the tight lines of the mouth, the eyes darting from side to side as if seeking assistance or escape, the apparently involuntary small head movements signalling disengagement, which eventually develop into vigorous head-shaking. And that is just the body language. As ever, Theresa May was in a hall containing nobody except vetted senior Tory activists and mainstream media representatives. And yet, at six minutes in below, even that audience starts audibly jeering and dissenting.

All of which underlines a thought that has been pulling at me ever since the election started. May has continually tried to pitch this as a question of who you would wish to act as the negotiator of Brexit, either her or Jeremy Corbyn. But why would anybody believe that a woman who is not even capable to debate with her opponents would be a good negotiator?

In fact she would be an appalling negotiator. She becomes completely closed off when contradicted. She is incapable of thinking on her feet. She is undoubtedly the worst performer at Prime Minister’s Questions, either for government or opposition, since they were first broadcast. Why on earth would anybody think she would be a good negotiator? As soon as Michel Barnier made a point she was not expecting across the table, she would switch off and revert to cliché, and probably give off a great deal of hostility too.

The delusion she would negotiate well has been fed by the media employing all kinds of completely inappropriate metaphors for the Brexit negotiations. From metaphors of waging war to metaphors of playing poker, they all characterise the process as binary and aggressive.

In fact – and I speak as somebody who has undertaken very serious international negotiations, including of the UK maritime boundaries and as the Head of UK Delegation to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks – intenational negotiation is the opposite. It is a cooperative process and not a confrontational process. Almost all negotiations cover a range of points, and they work on the basis of you give a bit there, and I give a bit here. Each side has its bottom lines, subjects on which it cannot move at all or move but to a limited degree. Sometimes on a single subject two “bottom lines” can be in direct conflict. Across the whole range of thousands of subjects, you are trying to find a solution all can live with.

So empathy with your opposite number is a key requirement in a skilled negotiator, and everything I have ever seen about Theresa May marks her out as perhaps having less emotional intelligence than anybody I have ever observed. Bonhommie is also important. Genuine friendship can be a vital factor in reaching agreement, and it can happen in unexpected ways. But May has never been able to strike up friendships outside of a social circle limited to a very particular segment of English society, excluding the vast majority of the English, let alone Scots and heaven forfend continentals. The best negotiators have affability, or at least the ability to switch it on. It is a vital tool.

That is not to say occasionally you do not have to speak and stare hard to make plain that one of your bottom lines is real. But that is by no means the norm. And you need the intelligence and sharpness to carry it off, which May does not. That is one of the many differences between May and Thatcher.

Frankly, if I had the choice between sending in Jeremy Corbyn, with his politeness and reasonableness, or Theresa May, into a negotiation I would not hesitate for a second in choosing Corbyn. I am quite sure there is not another diplomat in the World who would make a different choice. May’s flakiness and intolerance of disagreement represent a disaster waiting to happen.

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Present Death

I watched I, Daniel Blake a few months ago on a plane to Ghana. The overwhelming feeling that this is real, this is really happening to people today in the country where I grew up, kept welling up inside me. In the foodbank, when she started shovelling in the baked beans with her hands, I could no longer stop myself from sobbing. This caused great consternation on KLM. White-haired comfortable looking men in business class are not supposed to break down over the Sahara.

The feeling came back when I started to read down this list from Black Triangle of people killed by benefit cuts. I could not get past the first few. I could though total up the names, and there are 101 dead people here, the tip of the iceberg. How many more lonely deaths are unreported or unattributed to their cause?

I was led to this by thinking of yesterday’s disgraceful media attack on Jeremy Corbyn, again co-ordinated on both Sophy Ridge (Sky) and Andrew Neill (BBC). And this is what I thought:

The IRA and UVF are not killing anybody today. Tory policies are. Tory policies have killed far more people than the IRA and UVF ever did.

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BBC News Pure and Utter Tory Propaganda

I genuinely cannot believe what I have just seen on the BBC national UK news. A report on the general election in Scotland in advance of tonight’s Scottish Leaders’ Debate. I know we have become used to the unfettered Tory bias of the BBC, but this was at a level of propaganda which has left me seriously disturbed.

In the 6 minute piece, four different BBC presenters told the viewer that the election in Scotland is dominated by the issue of a second independence referendum – which is not true, but is precisely the way that the Scottish Conservatives are trying to frame the debate in every single one of their leaflets and broadcast appearances.

They then had a piece by Sarah Smith from Kelso – a walk from the border with England and the second most Tory place in Scotland. Why choose somewhere so entirely unrepresentative? Then in Kelso they found an “independent” journalistic commentator to explain the situation to us. This “independent” journalist was the Conservative’s arch Conservative, Alex Massie of the Spectator, of Murdoch’s Times and often of the Daily Mail, possibly the most right wing man in Scotland.

Did the BBC introduce Massie as a Conservative, or at least as from the Spectator, known to be the Tory house magazine? No. They passed him off as an independent journalist. Did they balance him with another commentator who was not a raving Tory nutter? No. Did Massie’s contribution count against the time allocated to the Tories in the broadcast under election rules? No, he was “independent”. What did he tell us? Why he confirmed exactly what four different BBC presenters told us in the piece, that this election is all about the second Independence referendum. Exactly as the Conservatives say. Because nobody in Scotland ever thinks about anything else, obviously.

You are not going to believe this. Even as I type, at 18.24. a fifth BBC journalist has just told us tonight’s debate will be about “that fault line in Scottish politics, a second Independence referendum.”

This insistence on framing the entire debate in Tory terms, of trying to ensure that the metaphorical battle takes place only on Tory chosen ground, is disgusting. The second referendum has already been initiated by the Scottish Parliament after the SNP and Greens won a majority of both seats and popular vote in the last Holyrood elections. That is where the competence to initiate the referendum lies.

The BBC approach would at least have a certain honesty if they were saying that, as this election is, according to the BBC and the Tories, all about a second referendum, therefore if the SNP wins in Scotland there should be one. But that is not the terms in which they are framing it. What they have told us, in terms, is that should the SNP win less than 90% of the seats, that represents a rejection of the second referendum. Yes, that really is the BBC narrative, day in and day out, again and again and again, here in Scotland.

Just to complete the intellectual dishonesty of the snivelling hacks, the same people who characterise 35% opinion poll showings for Corbyn in England as total disgrace and failure, characterise 25% poll showings for Ruth Davidson in Scotland as the most sensational victory and triumph.

Of one thing I am sure. After Independence, the Imperial Broadcasting Corporation at Pacific Quay does not need to be reformed. It needs to be immediately closed down on day one, and every single employee needs to be handed their P45. Every single last one. Anybody who has worked in this obnoxious state propaganda organisation can have no part in building a new society.

Unless they have another vocation, like shovelling horseshit. I have never seen so many horses in Scotland as featured in the BBC report from Kelso. Tally-ho boys, what?!

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Trump in the Middle East

It is unlikely to become an opera like “Nixon in China” but the arrival of Trump in Saudi Arabia is pregnant with meaning.

The first and most obvious is the United States’ continuing identification with the Sunni side in an escalating Sunni/Shia conflict across the Middle East. The exception to this of course is Iraq, where US forces are helping Shia forces to pulverise the Sunni city of Mosul. The paradox is that the plunge of the United states firmly into the Sunni camp was precipitated by their realisation that, in removing Saddam Hussein, they had installed a Shia government in Iraq which was going to be highly susceptible to Iranian influence.

The paradox is that Europe, and most of the rest of the world, accepts that Iran is no longer a particular threat to world peace under the comparatively moderate President Rouhani, who was re-elected today. But the hatred for the Shia in the Gulf states is visceral. I was forcibly struck, when attending the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha last month, that the only contributions which evinced enthusiastic displays from the audience were attacks on Iran – and this was a largely academic audience. Even the session specifically on Palestine was dominated by attacks on Iran. One panel speaker mentioned Palestine only twice, and the very beginning and the very end of his 15 minute contribution.

There is nothing like genuine religious hatred to drive conflict, and doubtless it exists on both sides of the Sunni/Shia divide. What is appalling is the role of western powers, and their ally Israel, in seeking to exploit this hatred. This is not new. My latest book, Sikunder Burnes, details explicitly expressed British attempts to use Sunni/Shia conflict for divide and rule as early as the 1830’s.

But the modern form of this western practice explains directly some of the most appalling tragedies of our time. It explains the Western arming of the Saudis for their continuing and genocidal attacks on the Shia of Yemen. It explains British complicity in helping the dreadful Sunni Bahraini regime to enslave, torture and imprison its majority Shia population. Most crucially, it explains the complicity of western intelligence agencies with the Gulf states in founding, funding and arming Wahhabi terror groups under all their various names including Al Qaeda, ISIS and Al Nusra.

The concomitant of this is of course the de facto alliance of Saudi Arabia with Israel and the United States, against their “common enemies” of Hezbollah, Assad and Iran. The cementing of that alliance is the purpose of Trump’s trip. Which is extraordinary, because in campaigning he appeared to understand that the groups the US were supporting were themselves the source of the “terror threat” to the United States. It appears the arms industry have made plain to him that the terror threat and the destabilisation of the Middle East are both good for business.

As Trump has gone full neo-liberal at home and neo-conservative abroad, the question being asked is whether he ever believed any of his campaigning material, or whether he has just been captured by the establishment. My answer to which is, it makes no difference.

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