Monthly Archives: June 2017

Unpalatable Truth

Daniel Finkelstein just expressed in explicit terms what has been very obvious from the differential swings in different constituencies so far. The Conservative offer has appealed to a less educated, less cosmopolitan electorate. This is undoubtedly true. As I suspected, they have alienated much of the middle class in the process.

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That Exit Poll

Wow, that knocked me sideways. Predicting a seriously hung parliament. Also predicting a setback for the SNP but still most of the seats in Scotland. I am going to have a serious drink and then think about this. Amazing. Happy. One of the most interesting six hours of my life coming up.

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Why Britain is a Flawed Democracy

This graph tells you most of what you need to know about what passes for democracy in the UK today.

The shaded area at the right represents the period in which election law obliged the broadcasters to give fair and balanced coverage during the election campaign. The result is obvious.

Of course, it has not been that fair and balanced. We can identify four definite areas where it has been anything but. These are:

a) Demeanour towards different parties. Labour and SNP candidates were, as a matter of plain verifiable fact, interrupted far more often than Conservative candidates. That can be empirically verified eg both Paxman and Neil interrupted Corbyn over twice as often as they interrupted May. Qualitative analysis is trickier, but opposition candidates were in general treated with more scepticism and hostility, eg Keir Starmer being told by John Humphrys yesterday that he would not care about human rights if his own daughter had been killed.

b) Selection of the agenda. The Conservatives had different subjects they wished to concentrate upon, notably Brexit and security, and for the most part the media followed, in lockstep, this agenda. So Tories were quizzed mostly about the subjects on which they wished to be quizzed. Difficult subjects like the Tory relationship with Saudi Arabia were never raised. Labour however were quizzed ad nauseam about the IRA and lack of enthusiasm for nuclear holocaust, and very seldom quizzed on the NHS, education etc. With the SNP this was even more evident with a focus on almost nothing except a report on failings in the Scottish schools system, and zilch on Westminster, non-Holyrood affairs which are appropriate to this election. In the last week the media concentrated everywhere almost exclusively on security issues, as though nothing else matters.

c) Papers reviews. All broadcast media feature lengthy reviews of the national newspapers. As these are overwhelmingly owned by offshore billionaires and rabidly right wing, this gives an opportunity to further reinforce the right wing agenda

d) “Independent” commentators who are anything but. The paper reviews are one example of an area where “independent” commentators are almost always brought in to discuss the papers, and these commentators span the spectrum from UKIP to right wing Blairite. Throughout the election a very right wing commentariat was brought on to “assess” election news items. Uber-Tories like Alex Massie and Fraser Nelson appeared in this context, not allocated against Tory time share. Paul Mason is the only left wing individual I ever saw invited. This is reinforced by the appeal to the authority of right wing think tanks which are presented as independent and authoritative. The banker financed Institute of Fiscal Studies was frequently used, and we also saw bodies like Migration Watch, Policy Exchange and the Henry Jackson Society. None of this was identified as right wing comment or counted against Tory allocated time.

So the coverage was hardly fair and balanced, but despite this it was a great deal more fair and balanced than it normally is, because it was impossible for broadcasters to avoid giving a certain amount of unmediated time to Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, and even to Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood. The result of even this limited fairness was that collapse in the Tory lead.

Here is the important bit. This is not because Theresa May was below par, or Jeremy Corbyn was above par. The speeches of Jeremy I have watched have been a little below his normal standard, possibly due to overwork. May has always been this wooden. She is completely lacking in charisma and not very bright. Cameron kept her in position as a sop to the right wing of his party and precisely because he did not want a more capable right winger in high office.

No, the truth is that the media have been systematically selling us a lie for years; a totally false image they had portrayed of Theresa May’s competence and personality, and an equally false image of Jeremy Corbyn, had been drummed into people’s minds. Remember the only impression 99% of people had of either was what the media had told them. And it was a lie. It was a lie so blatant and obvious, that even the limited exposure to the truth over this past four weeks, with every attempt by the media to counterbalance that truth, has led to massive changes in the public perception of both May and Corbyn.

One reason I think Labour might do better than expected today are those likeability measures. It is the one marker which consistently goes with the winner. Blair was viewed as more likeable than Major, Bush more likeable than Gore, Cameron more likeable than Brown, Obama more likeable than Romney, Cameron more likeable than Miliband, and Trump more likeable than Clinton (that last is an extremely low bar). You can survive politically being viewed as less competent or even less honest. It is hard to win when nobody likes you. May now is viewed as significantly less likeable than Corbyn.

To return to the first graph, what we see is that political fortunes change massively when the mainstream media is obliged to give even a degree of fair exposure. But it is also evident that the sustained damage done over years of completely biased attrition, is probably too much to retrieve in a month. It further shows that the broadcast media is still extremely influential. “Independent” media is owned by offshore billionaires. The BBC hierarchy is openly Tory – the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the BBC Trust, the Head of News James Harding, Sarah Sands, Nick Robinson, Andrew Neil etc. are all open Tories.

A certain amount of free debate, and a tiny gesture towards balance, is allowed for four weeks every few years in the broadcast media. The print media does not do even that. In that four weeks, the people may start to change their views radically once the stream of propaganda carries some nuggets of reality, aided by social media. You cannot call this controlled exercise in temporary permitted dissent “democracy”. It is more a pressure valve in a system of corporate oligarchic control.

Get out today and vote against the Tories. In Scotland, SNP.

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The Catholic Orangemen of Togo – First Time in Paperback

Update: Catholic Orangemen instantly into top 1000 on Amazon, many thanks.

My book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo is now available in paperback and Kindle

I have explained before that this blog does not ask for donations but is financed through book sales. If you have enjoyed or benefited from this blog, I do urge you to buy a copy of The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. Here is the blurb from the book:

In this prequel to the bestselling Murder in Samarkand, Craig Murray describes how he discovered the dark heart at the centre of Tony Blair’s shiny New Labour administration shortly after its beginning, when Murray was the key witness in the Arms to Africa Affair which rocked the British political establishment. Murray makes a strong case against “liberal intervention” as he describes the use of mercenaries to obtain African mineral resources for Western financial interests. In so doing, Murray takes us on a journey into some of the darkest recesses of colonial history in Africa. As ever with Murray the story is laced with personal anecdotes, sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes both.

It was a blow to me when my publisher backed out of publishing this book after threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer, then head of Aegis, the mercenary command which had more troops in Iraq than the British army and made billions. Spicer wished to suppress the revelations in this book about Executive Outcomes and Sandline, and their history of atrocity in Africa.

The privatisation of killing is the ultimate expression of Toryism.

After the publisher dropped the book I self-published 1,200 hardback copies, which soon sold out. I also made it available free online, where more than 100,000 people downloaded it. Spicer and his lawyers Schillings never did carry out their threat to sue.

I have now brought it out in paperback using Amazon’s self-publishing platform. I appreciate people’s objections to Amazon, but it is the most practical method for me at the moment. I do hope those who have not read The Catholic Orangemen will find it informative. It is, I believe, a massive refutation to those who hold out Sierra Leone as Blair’s “good war”. This brief talk in American University, Washington DC last year is the only one I have ever given where I basically outline the main content of The Catholic Orangemen.

If you have already read it online for free, you would do me a large favour by purchasing the paperback to help with funding my work here. You can always give it as a present!

Like Murder in Samarkand, it is very much a warts and all autobiography, and I hope is a fearlessly honest look at myself. One young lady told me she hated me already by the end of page one, and had recovered by the end of the book, but would find it easier to say why she hated me than what dissipated the feeling! I rather know what she meant.

The major theme of the book is my personal encounters with the varied legacy of colonialism in Africa, of which my stumbling upon Catholic Orangemen is an amusing if somewhat whimsical example. I do hope you enjoy it.

I hope to have Murder in Samarkand back in print by the same method in a few weeks.

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Ripping Up Human Rights – Is This Theresa May’s Sheffield Rally Moment?

Confident of victory off the back of large numbers of murdered people changing the media agenda, a triumphalist Theresa May yesterday vowed – contrary to the Tory manifesto – to “rip up” human rights legislation.

This feels to me like it could be Theresa May’s “awright! awright! awright!” moment. Most of my readers will recall the 1992 election, where Neil Kinnock finished with a rally in Sheffield at which his high octane triumphalism was viewed by many of the public as revealing a rather unpleasant character, which possibly helped engender a shock last minute swing which lost him the election.

May’s Slough meeting is very different to that Sheffield rally – for one thing May’s crowd of Tory activists was tiny, and as always that BBC video uses tight focus to hide her lack of enthusiastic support. But what it has in common with Sheffield is hubris. I strongly suspect that ditching human rights is wildly popular among the rabid racist Brexiteers who constitute her core vote. Locking up Muslims without charge and throwing away the key will appeal to them. But a great deal of the rest of the population are bright enough to work out that proposal is likely to cause more, not less, terrorism. They will view May’s performance as presumptive and alarming.

Of course, abandoning human rights would make May’s Saudi friends feel more at home when they come to London to entertain call girls in their penthouses. But I expect May’s declaration may cost the Tories several seats, not least to the Liberals in South West London.

There is one very obvious point that the mainstream media has deliberately avoided. The Tories having made Brexit central to May’s campaign, there is no minister more crucial to the election than David Davis, the Brexit Secretary. Davis is a libertarian with a long and genuinely distinguished record in opposing human rights encroachments made in the name of the War on Terror. There is no way Davis is going to go along with substantial censorship of the internet, increased surveillance powers, and detention without trial. If May pushes ahead with her draconian plans, she will need a new Brexit Secretary.

For this reason, Davis has disappeared from the Tory campaign since the focus was shifted by the mainstream media to those conveniently timed terror attacks. They were especially conveniently timed for the Saudi sponsors of terror, as a Labour government would be committed to ending arms exports to Saudi, and would not support bombing Assad forces in support of jihadists in Syria.

Why has nobody in the mainstream media pointed out that Davis will not support May’s new anti-human rights proposals? Why have they not attempted to interview him on the subject?

Mainstream media spend thousands of hours probing differences within Labour. Yet this massive disagreement on what the media themselves have described as the main issue of the election, between the two major figures of the Conservative campaign, goes completely unremarked. Media silence. We must not question our masters.

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Vote for Basic Decency

There should already be no questioning of the inhumanity of Tory policies, given their concentration on tax cuts for the wealthy, starving the NHS and schools, and cutting benefits to those desperately in need. But the blatant and shameless attempts in the last 48 hours by Theresa May to exploit the deaths of the recent victims of terrorism for party advantage, are truly tasteless and sickening. The populist new pledge to “rip up human rights” is a further appeal to the basest instincts of society, while looking to seize the moment further to increase the powers of the state. The cycle of alienation will only be enhanced, causing more terrorism, by draconian state actions which inevitably will lead to injustice and grievance.

We have to stop the Tories. That must be the basis of any decent person’s vote. If you doubt me, just go down to a newsagent and look at the appalling front pages of today’s newspapers. The question is how to do it?

1) In Scotland, vote for the SNP. There is no constituency where an SNP vote risks letting the Tory in. There are scores of votes, especially in rural and in south central Scotland, where any switch of voters from SNP to Labour could gain the Tories enough seats to give Theresa May a working majority.

2). In England and Wales, vote for whoever is best placed to defeat the Tory. If you have a sitting non-Tory MP, lend them your support. So Lib Dems and Greens should vote Labour in Labour constituencies. That would, on current polling evidence, make almost all existing Labour seats safe. I make an exception for Birmingham Yardley where Labour voters should switch to the excellent John Hemming to get rid of the horrible Jess Phillips. In Hastings and Rye if Lib Dems vote Labour there is every chance to get rid of Amber Rudd, which is an aim every Lib Dem should support.

The Guardian have published a useful guide to some seats where tactical voting might be effective. I endorse it.

How to react to first past the post is a personal decision. But the danger of a continued Tory majority is so great that my own view is that anybody who is not hard right should, on this occasion, do what is practically most likely to mitigate it.

For Labour voters to vote to damage the SNP with the effect of electing Tories would be self harm. Lib Dem voters should find May’s attitude to human rights and to Brexit anathema. I am asking more Lib Dems to vote tactically, to support sitting Labour MPs, than any other group. This one time, the value of halting May outweighs the existentialist act of declaring personal allegiance. In the smaller number of constituencies where I am asking Lab voters to support Lib Dems, the same applies.

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Now More Than Ever

I have been a political activist my entire life, though not always necessarily in the party sense. I have been deeply interested in every Westminster election since 1974, campaigned hard in many of them and indeed stood for parliament myself twice, markedly unsuccessfully. But I do not think I have ever been so emotionally invested in any election so much as this one. I really care about this.

Why is that? It is not connected with Scottish Independence, because I am entirely confident we shall get that shortly, whatever happens on Thursday. No, it is more that I care deeply about what is happening in England and Wales. I was born there, and am after all half English.

But England is no longer the country I grew up in. It has become nasty and intolerant, turning its back on the world, of which the deeply harmful decision to leave the EU is but a symptom. Racism has become commonplace. It should not be forgotten that Enoch Powell was marginalised politically for his views on immigration, but he would be comfortably within the Tory mainstream today.

Britain has turned its back on the United Nations. Ministers claim openly that consent of the Security Council for military intervention is no longer needed, because Russia can veto – ignoring the scores of vetoes exercised by the UK and US, especially on behalf of Israel. The judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is simply brushed aside as Britain did not like it, when historically we have pressed other countries to follow the rulings in hundreds of cases. It has also become a major aim of government to leave the jurisdiction of the excellent European Court of Justice, which Britain led the way in founding. Britain is effectively repudiating the very concept of international law.

Added to this extreme xenophobia and loss of identification with the whole world of mankind who are not “us”, we have the abandonment of empathy and social solidarity at home. Government spending plans will reduce state spending over the next three years to below 35% of GNP. Which would be the lowest in the EU, except we will no longer be in the EU. Yet as our NHS shivers as it is starved of cash, as schools tout for funds from parents, as the disabled and dying are denied benefits unless they haul themselves into work, the country still spends £220 billion on Trident missiles to stoke a collective militarist ego.

The massive cost of Trident is best illustrated by this figure. At constant 2016 values, the total net UK contribution to the EU budget over 44 years 1973-2017 was £157 billion. Compared to £225 billion to renew Trident. That is a measure of how irrational the UK has become.

Wealth inequality has grown to astounding levels. An entire generation of young people are going to spend their lives paying rent to make the landlord class still more wealthy. The generation which got their education for free – Thatcher’s children – have forced those coming after to pay, pulling up the ladder behind themselves.

Finally, we have massive state surveillance, and an extraordinarily biased state propaganda machine and mainstream media, not just during the election, but all day and every day. This morning, on BBC Radio 4 a dreadful person named Andrew O’Hagan was allowed a ten minute unquestioned diatribe on the need for government to employ “battalions of thousands of people” to scrutinise and censor the entire internet. Amber Rudd was saying something similar shortly afterwards. And as I pointed out, the essentials of the Tory manifesto are extraordinarily similar to the BNP manifesto of 2005.

So continued Tory rule represents a political direction which appals me. This government is far to the right of Thatcher. The battles of the 1980’s represented a fight for survival of industrial communities, but this has a still more desperate feel. It is a fight for the very concept of public sector provision.

In Scotland we have the SNP to defend the values of basic communal decency. Now in England we have Jeremy Corbyn, a man alongside whom I have spoken and who gives the first real chance in a generation to voters in England and Wales to reject neo-liberalism.

This is why this election matters more than any other. The ultra-wealthy elite had succeeded in diverting the popular discontent at the wealth gap and falling standards of living for many, into xenophobia. Immigrants have successfully been scapegoated. The establishment have kept people sufficiently ill-educated, and sufficiently misled by the mainstream media, for this ploy to work.

The great question is whether the anti-establishment mood in the country has been irretrievably captured by populist xenophobia masking the intentions of the neo-liberals, or whether a return to an older tradition of genuine social radicalism under Corbyn can halt this trend. So on both sides of the equation this election is pivotal. Britain will become a nasty, uncaring, closed country to an extent I would never have believed possible. Or it will adopt policies of communal solidarity and public provision which I had almost lost hope people would have a chance to vote for again.

This is not any election. This one matters more than ever. This time, we should all really care.

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Already A Victory

We cannot know what will happen on Thursday. There are huge differentials in opinion polls. We now know that the pollsters’ samples, demographically weighted to reflect the population in terms of age, geographical spread, and past voting intention, return very similar results. What differs is the extent to which they apply the additional filter of judging likelihood to vote, not by people’s declaration on this point, but by historic records reflecting the fact turnout is much higher among the elderly. That in itself has thrown a spotlight on the massive age differential in voting. The Tories are extremely dependent on pensioners. It is precisely the same age group that supported Brexit and opposed Independence.

There has been some drop in Tory support among the elderly in the election, but only in line with the drop in the general population. The abandonment of the triple lock, the dementia tax and the end of winter fuel allowance have not particularly dented the loyalty of the Tory grey army.

So if younger people want to stop the Tories, they have to get themselves to the polling booth at all costs. As for campaigning, almost certainly more effective than attending rallies or sticking leaflets through strangers’ doors, would be to sit down and have a real heart to hear with elderly family members and acquaintances.

A quick disclaimer. I realise there are a lot of wonderful people of pension age who are not Tories. I am not attacking the elderly, I am stating a plain and undisputed fact about voting breakdown by age.

It is also the case that there has been a very definite trend away from the Tories for the last month, and there is little evidence to suggest that has stopped. So today’s polls are not how opinion will stand on voting day.

But this election has been a great victory already, whatever the result.

Firstly, a genuine alternative has been put to the electorate in England and Wales for the first time in a generation. And Jeremy Corbyn has proved beyond doubt that left wing policies are popular. Refusal to endorse nuclear weapons, aggressive foreign policy, privatisation and austerity are indeed popular. With New Labour triangulating themselves right into the neoliberal establishment consensus, English and Welsh voters had no opportunity to express a radical view since 1983.

The careerist Blairites who had taken over the Labour Party argued that it would be electoral suicide not to adopt all the Tory policies. NHS privatisation, utility privatisation, PFI, benefit cuts, Trident, attacks on foreign countries; these are what the public want, said the Blairites.

Corbyn is now proving that was a lie.

Indeed, of all the opinion poll findings which give results such as strong public support for renationalisation of the railways, that which drives the stake deepest into the hearts of the Blairites and Tories alike is the YouGov poll on foreign policy. People are not stupid, and by a two to one majority people believe that our wars abroad cause terrorism here. That is why the furious Tory attack, that to explain is to support, bounced off.

A clear majority of people oppose our recent wars in Muslim lands.

It is precisely those of Corbyn’s views which the entire mainstream media, the Tories and the Blairites consider unacceptable, and which fall well outside the Overton window, which are popular. That explains why the attacks do not work. The victory of this election is that those popular views have been expressed widely, after years of being banished methodically from the airwaves.

If May wins, she will almost certainly not have the huge landslide she expected. Her honeymoon period is well and truly over and she now has a very negative public image. That is going to get worse as we are heading into a Brexit recession and a house price crash. I agree with every word of this extremely important article from Will Hutton. May’s support is almost entirely from hard Brexiteers who are going to crash the economy to satisfy their racism. That will quickly appear a very bad idea.

A May government with a small majority, possibly dependent on Ulster Unionists, running a disastrous policy and becoming ever more unpopular, is the best outcome the Conservatives have left in terms of retaining power. All the media’s horses and all the media’s men are not going to be able to put together again the ludicrous image they had constructed of Theresa May as a great leader, which fell apart at the very first public scrutiny.

If Corbyn comes to power, he will almost certainly have to be supported by the SNP, who I am proud to say have an even more radical platform than Labour, including scrapping Trident and reversing all benefit cuts. How many Blairites would defect to the Tories rather than support a Corbyn government with SNP support is an interesting question. But remember, most Blairites would sell their mother for a ministerial limousine. Corbyn’s position against the Blairites has been immeasurably strengthened by this campaign, and win or lose, his party leadership is safe if he wants to keep it. If John Woodcock etc. wanted to take themselves off to form a second Tory Party that would be no bad thing at all.

Of course I want to see May defeated and out of office, because Tory policies actually kill people. But I will not be too disappointed by a pyrrhic Tory victory.

A renewed Tory government will quickly become extremely unpopular as it flails in Brexit negotiations. It will be more right wing and authoritarian than ever, because those are May’s instincts when in trouble. As a Scottish nationalist, I have no doubt at all that the clarity of the choice between a hard right Brexit led Tory government, and Independence, can have only one result. Whether May or Corbyn is in No.10, I am confident this is the last Westminster election I shall have to endure.

If May sneaks back, Corbyn can continue with the work of recasting the Labour Party on popular and radical lines. Most importantly, boundary changes will give the chance for reselections to ditch a large portion of the Blairite rump. Still better would be a change of rules for mandatory reselection, where again the SNP shows Labour the way. And by next time Corbyn must face down the disgustingly blinkered and selfish attitude of the GMB, who love getting fat pay packets for working on weapons of mass destruction, and Corbyn must get a policy on Trident which he can defend without twisting himself in knots – again following the SNP.

If May gets back in, her government will collapse by 2020. Even a “defeat” on Thursday would not be the end, but just the start of a new dawn for popular radical politics,

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The Qatar Conundrum

Qatar is the most politically liberal of the Gulf states (admittedly a low bar). It hosts Al Jazeera TV and the Doha Debates. You can drink in its hotels and women can walk around uncovered, drive cars, and associate comparatively freely. Its universities are western in feel and appearance. There are of course many things to criticise, above all the treatment, conditions and lack of rights of migrant workers, lack of women’s and LGBT rights and freedom of speech, and the absence of meaningful democracy. But Saudi Arabia it isn’t.

For Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Co-operation Council states to claim Qatar is the main sponsor of state terrorism, and put it under potentially crippling blockade, is the most monstrous example of the pot calling the kettle black. Qatar has indeed financed violent groups in the Middle East and participated in the war in Yemen, but in both cases on a far less grand scale than Saudi Arabia.

What is really behind this blockade against Qatar is an attack on another aspect of its liberalism. Qatar is unenthusiastic about the USA/Israel/Saudi de facto alliance, which has already been in evidence for a couple of years, and which the Trump mission to the Middle East looked to turbocharge. Qatar refused to endorse the overthrow of Egypt’s democratically elected President by the CIA-backed military coup of General Sisi. Qatar also has deep reservations about the Saudi Wahhabist mission to spread sectarian war against the Shia across the Middle East. Qatar further deserves praise because the plight of the Palestinians is a far higher priority for Doha than it is for Riyadh. The Saudis have no problem with selling out the Palestinians completely to secure their own standing with the Western elites and further their rivalry with Iran.

The extent to which Qatar has been able to act upon its different instincts to its much larger and more powerful neighbour has been limited, and by and large it has been obliged to go along with the Saudis in the Gulf Cooperation Council without expressing too much dissent. It is Trump’s visit and the desire of the Saudis to increase the security coordination with the USA and Israel which has forced the Qatari Royal Family to take a stand of principle, which sadly they are unlikely to be unable to maintain in the face of the blockade.

It is a straw in the wind that a figure like me was able to be invited two months ago to be the guest speaker at Al Jazeera’s gala dinner. My pro-Palestinian views are very well known as are my criticisms of both the United States and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, they can be the only possible reason I was invited to go and sit at a table with members of the Qatari royal family and give a very public speech.

I have been challenged to produce a recording of that speech, and some commenters have suggested I am hiding something. The truth is I never write my speeches, as anyone who has seen me speak will know, and that I understand it was broadcast live with only the Arabic interpreter as sound, but I have been unable to find a recording anywhere. However I recall my closing sentence fairly accurately, and it was aimed very squarely at the Saudis.

“If you find yourself in an alliance, even a de facto alliance, with a state which is conducting a slow genocide against people of your own race and your own religion, then you may be motivated by self-interest, but you have in fact mistaken your own self-interest.”

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The Three Most Important Facts About Tory Economics

1) From 2010 to 2017 Corporation Tax in the UK reduced drastically from 28% to 19%

The UK now has notably lower corporate tax rates than most other large developed countries

On top of which HMRC has a particularly accommodating attitude to corporate tax avoidance.

2) But the corporations have not put any of the cash from this massive tax cut into investment

3) Rather all of the corporation tax giveaway has gone straight into the pockets of the rich, through massive executive pay increases and shareholder dividend increases.

I am sorry I could not find a more up to date version than 2015 of that chart, but it has got no better, and it illustrates well how since 2010 the corporation tax rate cuts in the UK – the green line – have resulted in a ludicrous explosion of dividends to earnings compared to international norms.

So the Tory corporation cuts have done nothing to help the wider economy at all, but simply lined the personal pockets of the already rich. It has almost no effect in stimulating the wider economy, and to reverse the cuts in corporation tax to pay for public sector investment is both prudent and likely to be effective in boosting economic growth.

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Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism

In this hustings clip, independent candidate for Hastings and Rye Nicholas Wilson is linking the Manchester bombing to Tory support for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Home Secretary Amber Rudd can be clearly seen writing a note, passing it to the chairman and speaking to him. He then immediately intervenes to stop Wilson speaking and takes the microphone from him.

I don’t have the name of the chairman who looks like a corrupt, overfed, complacent, Tory, Church of England vicar straight out of Trollope. But as soon as I get his name, I will publish it.


What is happening to the understanding of democracy in this country? I just got a call saying the Residents’ Committee of the apartment block where I live were instructing me to remove the SNP poster from my balcony (It is a small A3 poster). My reply was extremely rude, I am afraid, and I have now put up a second poster.

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An Unpopular View

I expect some criticism for saying this. But allowing terrorism to disrupt our democratic processes incentivises terrorists. Personal attention seeking, and the idea that their self-sacrifice will have an impact on the world, is part of the deranged psychology that motivates suicide bombers. To suspend the election campaign again following another dreadful terrorist attack, actually will boost the prestige of the act in the eyes of their supporters and potential future terrorists. If we react in this way, we are promoting the chances of a wave of such attacks every time we have an election.

I abhor and condemn last night’s attack and am dreadfully sorry for all victims, dead and injured, and for their family and friends. But it would serve the memory of the dead better if we reacted by continuing calmly with our democracy, and showed that their killers cannot win, cannot affect us.

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Marching Again for Freedom

UPDATE: Livestream from Independence Live added.

I am heading out now to Glasgow for today’s demonstration for Scottish Independence. I am hoping to speak at the rally, but am not quite sure at the moment if I will get to do that. If not, I shall just be one of the crowd, tramping along. If you recognise me, do say hello.

Over 20,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they are going, but I fully expect the BBC to ignore the event. They will be far too busy wandering around Glasgow, desperately searching for Tory voters they can vox pop.

Use of vox pops in this election has been deeply disturbing. They are a device under which the broadcasters can slip in views of the “ordinary man” which they might otherwise need to challenge. Just this morning Radio 4 Today had somebody calling Jeremy Corbyn a “communist” without contradiction. Last night Channel 4 News did a vox pop in Mansfield in which seven out of nine people interviewed were switching their vote from Labour to Tory. When I was in Merthyr Tydfil last week I was given an eye witness account of a Sky News team going around the town centre literally for an entire working day and finding only two people who were switching from Labour to Tory. Those two people were broadcast as the entire Merthyr Tydfil vox pop.

It is not only the broadcast media. The mainstream media do it too. Rabid unionist propagandist Severin Carrell of the Guardian managed to do a vox pop around Glasgow East constituency which did not find a single SNP voter (the SNP will probably get over 50% in Glasgow East) but did find Tories (they will definitely get under 15%).

The point of such vox pops is of course to convince voters that people like themselves are thinking a certain way, and perhaps they ought to follow. It also introduces further pro-Tory slant which does not count against one party’s equal time selection. What we know already from the opinion polls is that the vox pops the media have given us are massively unrepresentative of the population.

I have never yet spoken at any demonstration or event for Independence without some well-meaning people contacting me to warn me against the group organising the march. My view is that I will turn up pretty well anywhere and speak to anyone in support of Independence. I am not sure if I will get to speak today, and I have seen no indication of who the other speakers are. But I shall be there. I am getting so overweight lately I can bulk out the crowd quite a bit!

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BBC Question Time Corbyn and May

Good finish by Corbyn on tuition fees. But overall not a clear win for either, with a peculiarly lacklustre audience. Probably better for May as she exceeded expectations by not positively falling on her arse.

Corbyn finally showing some real passion in responding to a particularly Neanderthal Tory. Dimbleby steps in to undercut him.

Nuclear destruction, IRA, anti-Semitism, Diane Abbott, Brexit – every dull Tory attack line been trotted out. Audience seem half asleep.

Corbyn being helped by some really nasty arrogant Tories being allowed questions on keeping people’s wages down.

Audience Adam thinks that firing a nuclear weapon would preserve his safety. No Adam you would be dust very quickly after that. Without a huge diminution in intelligence evidently.

Dimbleby “I may come back to education and the economy”… but let’s get on to the firing nuclear weapons Tory attack meme. More important obviously.

Corbyn should reference the continual vilification of Diana Abbott as a gross example of racism.

BBC kick off with Corbyn on Brexit followed by coalition with SNP – BBC exactly following Tory attack agenda.

May got out of that without major damage. Unsympathetic and flinty to nurses and slipped into prepared rhetoric on education, but less stilted than usual.

May getting through this OK, aided by the BBC having selected audience critics who are mostly unusually inarticulate.

May told a blatant lie about Diane Abbott wanting to remove terrorists from DNA databases. I don’t think this kind of slur really helps her.

May stuttering and stumbling horribly as she lies about whether her manifesto changed over social care policy

For Theresa May the BBC immediately steer the subject straight on to the Tories’ preferred subject of Brexit.

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Brexit Britain, Alone and Ignored

Britain’s pusillanimous reaction to Trump’s crazed decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change shows the stupidity of believing that Brexit Britain will be a mighty player bestriding the world stage. Britain is about to go down on its knees before Trump to beg for post Brexit trade access to the USA, so is in no position to stand up to him as France, Germany and Italy did yesterday. They issued a powerful joint public statement:

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies. We are convinced that the implementation of the Paris Agreement offers substantial economic opportunities for prosperity and growth in our countries and on a global scale. We therefore reaffirm our strongest commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, including its climate finance goals and we encourage all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change.”

By contrast, we are expected to believe that May expressed her “disappointment” to Trump in a private phone call. Given May’s congenital inability to address any subject directly, and the new servility in Britain’s position vis a vis the United States, I think we can all guess how that went.

Britain is now a diplomatic non-entity. We are grovelling around the world for trade access, including the most dreadful displays of obeisance to the Saudis who export the ideology and the funds for terrorist jihadism. We have a buffoon for a Foreign Secretary, who is not regarded abroad with the friendly tolerance which Tory England extends to him because he is posh. We have the disgraced Liam Fox in charge of securing international trade.

I do not hold up the Paris Agreement as perfect or even adequate, but it was a huge stride forward in the international acceptance of man made climate change and the need to address it. Trump’s statement of renunciation yesterday notably failed to make any straightforward acknowledgement of the existence of man made climate change. We have heard much in this election campaign from the Tories criticising Corbyn’s hesitation to commit to launching nuclear weapons to destroy the planet. Yet the Tories are failing to take any kind of action to deter the true threat to our children’s existence.

Welcome to Brexit Britain, a diplomatic irrelevance, scrabbling for an economic niche, utterly devoid of principle.

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If Michael Foot Had Facebook and Twitter

Online Tories are consoling themselves with two memes:

1) Michael Foot got huge crowds but lost in 1983, so Corbyn’s crowds mean nothing
2) Young people won’t turn out to vote

The parallels with 1983 have a certain validity. This is probably the first time since 1983 a genuine ideological choice has been put to the electorate in England and Wales. As a direct consequence of this, it is the first election since 1983 where the mainstream media has been effectively unanimous in extreme and naked bias against the leader of the Labour Party.

But there are important differences. An important and unexpected one is that, if we are considering crowd size, in 1983 the Tories could pull a big crowd too. Whatever her faults, and they were extreme, at least Thatcher was not a coward like May. She did open air street meetings and the passing public could get to them. Yes there were police around her, but it bore no relation to May’s constant hiding from the public. Do a google image search for “Margaret Thatcher 1983 crowds” and you will see what I mean. Thatcher could draw a crowd of supporters, without bussing them in or corralling workers in their workplace.

So yes, Foot could indeed draw crowds like Corbyn. But May cannot draw crowds like Thatcher.

I had enormous respect for Michael Foot. His book The Politics of Paradise remains one of my favourites, and I once had the chance to discuss Byron with him. What the scoffers forget is that, prior to the Falklands War, Foot held very large opinion poll leads over Thatcher, consistently for two years. It was only the fit of extreme jingoism over the Falklands War, and the “Khaki election” Thatcher opportunistically called on the back of it, that caused Foot to lose.

The Tories have tried precisely the same trick on Corbyn that they tried on Foot; using jingoism against him. Indeed Paxman even referenced the Falklands War itself in his attack on Corbyn. But the world has moved on, and this simple imperialism does not have the pull with voters it did back in 1983.

To watch the Tory and mainstream media puzzlement that these attacks have not sunk Corbyn has been one of the joys of the last month.

But of course the biggest difference between now and 1983 is the existence of new media. Foot faced a very similar hostility from mainstream media, and public meetings, leaflets and local activists pounding the streets were all that he had to combat it. But now we have all those things plus social media. The impact of this cannot be over-estimated.

An article in Today’s Guardian shows that one blog, Another Angry Voice, is reaching more people online with its articles than the Independent and the Guardian, and that the Canary was in the same league as the two mainstream outlets.

I wondered how we do on this list, so I contacted the ranking company, Kaleida, and they replied that they had only analysed the sites the Guardian had asked them to. That makes the Guardian’s ethics pretty questionable in presenting a “top 25” when they had pre-determined who they were, but let that pass. Another Angry Voice is in any event excellent and to be commended on its achievement.

As is Wings over Scotland, which today published its readership figures for May:

That is a very strong readership for effectively a one man, pro-SNP blog. Which is also a fair description of our blog, which has an even bigger readership than Wings. I downloaded the same analytics to get the exact comparable figure:

So this little blog is getting 800,000 unique viewers a month. Some individual posts have been getting 250,000 readers. You have to remember when looking at newspaper circulations that nobody reads an entire newspaper and individual articles get a fraction of the quoted total readership. That is why AAV is outdoing the Guardian and Independent in those rankings.

When you add together the efforts of Scottish Independence supporting sites like mine, Wings, Wee Ginger Dug, Bella Caledonia, Newsnet and scores of others, the readership really does run to millions. On a UK basis, if you look at Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge, the Canary and again scores of others, the anti-Tory forces are finally at a combined readership that genuinely can offer an alternative influence to mainstream media.

On twitter the dominance of the left is unquestioned, with Labour Eoin a whole national campaign by himself.

This campaigning combination of old fashioned flesh pressing and meetings, with a social media reaching out to millions on millions, is very potent indeed. I participated in precisely this combination of activities, and saw how it enabled us to increase support for Scottish Independence up from 28% to 45% in the course of the referendum campaign. I have now witnessed it shove back a massive Tory lead in this general election.

It is an astonishing fact that the Tory campaign has been pushed to the point of disintegration by this social activism, despite having the support of the mainstream media, to the extent it is often impossible to tell which is the “journalist” and which is the Tory politician.

If only Michael Foot had been able to fight with the weapons of social communication now at all our disposal, and the support of citizen journalists against the media billionaires.

Which of course is the answer to the second Tory meme – that the Tories will win as the young will not vote.

It is by now notorious that the difference between different opinion pollsters is down to the extent by which they allow for differing turnouts between age groups and social classes. Those still showing a substantial Tory lead, are assuming the young and the dispossessed will vote in very low numbers, as has been historically the case. Those showing Labour close to overtaking the Tories, are accepting people’s own description of their likelihood to vote.

Precisely the same factors apply in Scotland, where the Tory vote is again heavily concentrated in the older population. I strongly suspect that the much higher propensity of the elderly to vote Tory is likely to be matched by a much higher propensity of the elderly to get their information from the BBC and other mainstream media sources. I believe this is likely to be the primary cause of the truly startling age differential in voting intentions.

I exect the young and less affluent will now vote in greater numbers than usual in general elections because, for the first time in decades, there is a chance to vote for a real change that will make a positive difference to their lives. Historically they were unenthused because there was nothing to enthuse them. Only in Scotland was there a realistic chance for most people to elect somebody who was not simply a shade of Tory.

Now there is real choice and they are enthused, be it by Corbyn or by Independence, depending on location, and they will vote.

But also they will vote because they are going to get reminded to vote on social media on election day, many, many times. That is something everyone reading this has to make sure to do. It is not just our individual responsibility to vote. It is our individual responsibility to make sure that everybody votes.

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