Direct Action and the British State 320

The draconian sentencing to jail of anti-fracking activists for non-violent direct action has received insufficient attention. It is a confident state that can undertake to bring back a level of repression not seen for decades – eight decades, in fact, since environmental activists received this kind of lengthy jail sentence, despite generations of tree climbing and road blocking.

Non violent direct action has been an area of tacit complicity between state and protestors. I have over the years participated myself – the occupation of the building site of Torness nuclear power station was a defining moment for my generation in Scotland, and I will cheerfully admit I participated in criminal damage of plant and equipment. I have blocked the road at Faslane occasionally too. While a week or two of my life in jail always seemed a threat, the idea of 16 month jail sentences for such protest appeared a nightmare from a distant age.

The judge in the fracking case, Robert Altham, is evidently a vicious old Tory, descended by his own account from the judge who conducted the infamous Pendle witch trials. His parents, John and Linda Altham, have the same name as the owners of Althams, a company supplying the offshore oil and gas industry. The company is also Lancashire based and it seems very probable they are the same family. Given that the judiciary allowed a judge to handle Julian Assange’s bail hearing, despite the fact that she was married to a former Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, who had started a consultancy together with the former head of MI6, I am not in the least surprised that a corrupt Establishment allows such prejudiced judges to act so viciously – in both cases.

The local community around the fracking protestors are overwhelmingly opposed to the development, and indeed the local council banned it but were overruled by the Tory government. To cite traffic disruption to the local community as the reason for the vicious jail sentences, when the local community supported the action and will suffer far worse disruption from the fracking itself, shows how dark and twisted is Altham’s logic of repression.

In the same week, we saw another assertion of state force against the people when the Tory Government, which has never polled above 28% in Scotland, calmly announced it would not permit another Scottish Independence referendum before 2027. The notion that the self-determination of the Scottish people is subject to a veto by an overwhelmingly English Westminster parliament is not one that most Scots would accept.

I have long argued that after the scare it gave Westminster in 2014, when Scottish Independence proved much more popular than the unionists had ever imagined, Scotland would next time face a Catalan situation rather than a 2014 rerun. That has now materialised. I cannot better this excellent article by James Kelly on the ramifications.

Indeed I believe that the widespread and vocal approval and endorsement of the Francoist beatings of Catalan voters, from governments and politicians all over Europe and from the European Commission, in the name of the “rule of law”, has helped form a political climate that led to, among other things, the Tory MEP’s defence of Orban and the jailing of the fracking protestors. Repressive, even violent, state power is the order of the day.

James Kelly is mildly optimistic about the SNP leadership taking up the challenge, as the Catalan government did. I am worried that there are too many with comfortable berths within the devolved UK settlement, who crave “respectability”, and do not have the stomach for a struggle if Westminster deems it illegal. But I do believe such haverers will find themselves swept aside by the Yes movement, should they stand in front of it without actually moving.

Which brings me back to the noble fracking activists. Like them and like the Catalan leaders, political prisoners for a year now, some of us Scottish nationalists may need to suffer on the road to Independence, from the vicious ill-will of a resurgent and emboldened unionist establishment. Some of the steps we need to take will be deemed illegal. Very few Independence movements have ever succeeded without that. We will also be subject to all kinds of dirty tricks and provocations from the UK security services. It is not going to be simple or comfortable. But if we meekly bow our heads to the alien Tory diktat, we do not deserve to be called a nation.


I feel compelled to add an anecdote about the Torness occupation. It was billed as a demonstration and march to Torness from Dunbar. The site was protected by a high mesh fence topped with barbed wire. There was a massive police presence, concentrated at the gate. But we had to march alongside the fence for a long distance before reaching the gate, and protestors simply moved a haystack from the other side of the road up against the fence, then everyone scrambled over and dropped down the other side.

Tents sprang up everywhere, and within the same day stages, PA systems, catering units and all kinds of stuff appeared. The Police were passive and friendly in a way it is hard to imagine happening now. I cannot remember how long the occupation lasted, I was there several nights.

Now my confession. I was not given to vegetarian food or sleeping eight to a tent. Once the occupation was under way the police had us effectively blocked inside the site – the haystack mound was the other side of the fence and the gate remained secured. I therefore spent the first afternoon scraping a hole under the fence, and after dark wriggled out and walked in to Dunbar to stay the night in a hotel, before breaking back in again the next morning. I did this every night!

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320 thoughts on “Direct Action and the British State

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  • PeteB

    Compare even with trial and sentencing of “The Fairford Five” who admitted cutting throught the fence at RAF (really USAF) Fairford and committing £10,000 worth of damage to vehicles during the Iraq War: “One of the defendants was found not guilty, two were acquitted, one received a conditional discharge and a £250 fine for costs,[1] with the final defendant receiving a curfew order on 2 August 2007 which lasted until the following January.”

  • Gary

    I have the greatest of respect for you as a writer, thinker and former ambassador BUT, when you say “Some of the steps we need to take will be deemed illegal” I fear that this will be used against you when/if the media interview you on ANY subject to discredit you. I know that you are talking about blocking roads as was done in Faslane and the like but it would be all too easy to deliberately misinterpret this as a call for some kind of violent uprising.

    Lazy journalists love picking out a few words and ignoring the body of the text – just like I’ve done, to smear any opinion/knowledge you have of a subject.

    NB I do know that you are NOT advocating anything like that, merely that it’d be the kind of thing Kay Burley dreams about…

    • N_

      Kay Burley probably dreams of yachts and ski resorts and Mont Blanc pens and Rolexes and safe deposit boxes and Aston Martins and crap like that.

        • N_

          Nothing of that kind, I can assure you. My point was that Kay Burley is in it for the money and nasty with it. She tries to skewer Craig because it helps with her career. If it helped her to butter him up, she’d butter him up. If it helped her to switch between the two several times in a single day, she’d do it. The “politics” of people like her is spit down, suck up. She hasn’t got it in for the people she craps on, which sounded to me as though it was what Gary was supposing. She views them as objects.

          • Paul Greenwood

            Kay Burley was brought home from the cardboard factory by her parents and painted up so she could fit into the polystyrene settings of a SkyTV Studio. She has no redemptive purpose other than to prove ability is a real hindrance to career progress in the UK. whatever she does in the blue room must be very good

  • Helena

    Sinister to say the least. Like you say, a couple of weeks locked up could be worth it, but 16 months of your life, and the repercussions for your family and your work is extreme and definitely does not reflect the ‘punishment fitting the crime’ idea. Not that these brave people were in any way acting criminally, the criminals are the ones at the helm. The real criminals are in government, even in fact the judges themselves if we are not careful, & in big business etc. We live in dangerous times.

    I fear the ‘UK’ so called, post Brexit, is set to become a true dystopian nightmare for the ‘many’, but not the for ‘few’.
    It’s certainly very sinister when you have those making serious judgements in law, and those in control of government, and/or big business, actually being the same people.

    There’s a short film of the Torness occupation on the nls image archive. (

    )These films tend to be copyrighted, so can’t link to it.

    Let’s hope that Saturday is not infiltrated by those who would like to quell if not surpress the independence movement, it’s certainly not insignificant no matter how much the Britnats & their state run media, want it to be.

  • N_

    The DUP want a really hard Brexit at the same time as insisting the Irish border must be really really soft. What a bunch of nutters!

  • Ottomanboi

    Respectability in the eyes of the overlords is sought by certain old school elements in the SNP. They imagine ‘being nice’ the correct way for serious politicians to behave. Anything else smacks of dangerous, hot headed radicalism and would be unBritish. John Buchan might well approve the outlook.
    Those Catalans (whom mercifully Calvin and Knox never meddled with) are just not playing a fair game.
    This blind spot in SNP strategy, suggestive of the likelihood of supine capitulation in the face of enemy threats, may need a change of political lens and focus as well as some leading operatives.

    • N_

      They are ruthless moneygrabbers committed to lining their pockets, to realpolitik, and to using whatever lies and propaganda techniques suit their purposes, just like the other parties. You must be living on another planet if you think they’re hampered by a religious commitment to being nice and honest.

  • N_

    The Tory Government, which has never polled above 28% in Scotland“.

    I’m not sure what this means, because the government doesn’t stand in elections, but the Tories won more than 50% of the vote in Scotland in the 1955 general election. The 1950s was the same decade they last won a majority in England too.

    • Goodwin

      “The Tory Government, which has never polled above 28% in Scotland“.

      So? Didn’t Tony Blair become prime minister with a smaller vote than that?

      • craig Post author

        No, he didn’t. That’s 28% of the votes cast, not 28% of the entire electorate. As a percentage of the entire electorate, this Tory goverment has never polled above 18%.

        • N_

          In Scotland:

          British GE 2010 Tories 17%, 3 main unionist parties 78%, turnout 64%
          Scottish GE 2011 (constituency vote) Tories 14%, 3 main unionist parties 54%, turnout 50%
          Independence referendum: union 55%, independence 45%, turnout 85%
          British GE 2015 Tories 15%, 3 main unionist parties 47%, turnout 71%
          Scottish GE 2016 (constituency vote) Tories 22%, 3 main unionist parties 52%, turnout 56%
          British GE 2017: Tories 29%, 3 main unionist parties 62%, turnout 66%

          So support for Unionism in elections has risen in the three years since 2015, although it isn’t winning by 4 to 1 as it did in 2010.
          Support for the Tories has also risen during that period, but the Tories have throughout this time always won less than half of the Unionist vote.

          Turnout in Scotland in Scottish GEs is always lower than in British GEs because fewer Scots think SGEs are important.

          The SNP line that “Voting Labour means English Tory rule, so vote SNP instead” with the implication that if you don’t like the SNP you can vote Scottish Labour after independence comes across to most people as what it is: politicians trying to trick votes out of them.

          If the SNP want another referendum rather than to engage in a maximum amont of porkbelly politics, they should call a Scottish general election, stand on the platform of another referendum within the next six months – and find out whether a majority of voters support the idea. They want to give the voters what the voters want, right?

          • craig Post author

            You are ignoring the fact that a very sizeable chunk of Labour voters, support Independence. About 25% of them.

    • Brus MacGallah

      In fact the Scottish Unionist Party won 41.5% of the vote. The National Liberals won 8.6% giving an effective Unionist majority of 50.1%. The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party did not come into existence until 1965. SCUP were then subsumed as a regional unit in 1977 to the Conservative Party.

    • craig Post author

      I mean the Tory government. If I meant any other Tory Government, or the Tory Party in general, I would have said so. I mean what I write. Your comprehension problems are not my fault.

      • N_

        The Tory government doesn’t stand in elections. And in any case, there have been three different Tory governments since 2010.

        The SNP should move for a Scottish general election. The only reason they don’t is because they already lost their seat majority in the Scottish parliament in 2015 and they know they’d get hammered.

        • Susan Smith

          The last Scottish “General Election” ( ie election for the Holyrood parliament) was in 2016. These elections use the Additional Members System of proportional representation for the 59 regional list seats ( the other 73, constituency seats, being elected by first past the post) and the system was designed so that no one party would gain a majority. What happened in 2011 when the SNP won a majority of seats was therefore a “remarkable feat” .,_2011 The “loss of the majority” is not nearly as significant as many people think it is.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    I don’t approve of criminal damage of plant and equipment. What is wrong with vegetarian food and sleeping 8 in a tent? I do approve of digging a hole under the fence. Was this with your bare Hands? But staying in a hotel during such a demonstration is completely outrageous, and yes you do deserve to be locked up. You are completely mad. Tony

      • Tony_0pmoc

        It was, but I thought you were a director of a power company in Ghana. How would you like it if some local nutter caused criminal damage and put the lights out in Ghana?

        • Nevermind

          Deary me your poor lights, what would you do without light?
          Go to sleep I suppose.
          BTW. How is the fence around the pond coming on? Or have you filled it in and got rid of your frogs and ecology?

    • Charles Bostock

      Constitutions, whether codified or not, have nothing to do with the matter. At best you could point to the Continental practice (in fact the Napoleonic practice, hence not universal on the Continent) of having a Penal Code.

    • Paul Greenwood

      You really should learn the difference between Roman Law and English Law especially Law of Equity and Common Law. You are permitted to represent yourself in an English Law Jurisdiction because the Law is supposedly built Citizen/Subject upwards with Crown at apex. In Civil Law systems you must be represented by a Lawyer as representative of The Legal System – you cannot represent yourself.

      Law is The State whereas English Law exists independently of The State purportedly. Judges in places like Germany have party political affiliations and politicians have a hand in selection – and politicians do end up as Judges on the Supreme Court. A Prosecutor can be ordered to drop a case by a politician.

      You might find there are advantages in English Law.

  • Kempe

    I would lay good money on these sentences being overturned on appeal. Have the defendants appealed or are they intent on being martyrs?

    • Node

      I would lay good money on these sentences being overturned on appeal. Have the defendants appealed or are they intent on being martyrs?

      You win.

      ¿sɹʎʇɹɐɯ ƃuᴉǝq uo ʇuǝʇuᴉ ʎǝɥʇ ǝɹɐ ɹo pǝlɐǝddɐ sʇuɐpuǝɟǝp ǝɥʇ ǝʌɐH ˙lɐǝddɐ uo pǝuɹnʇɹǝʌo ƃuᴉǝq sǝɔuǝʇuǝs ǝsǝɥʇ uo ʎǝuoɯ pooƃ ʎɐl plnoʍ I

  • N_

    The British government is saying that the Russian GRU has targeted the World Anti Doping Agency. That’s obvious, but now they are saying it. This is far more interesting than merely a story about sport and people who get trained to run around fast in circles, jump over sticks, and throw things a long way. Anyone who is interested in WW3 should read up on this.

    British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and Britain’s “cyber security chiefs” are whingeing because they are getting their arses kicked all over the place.

    The ban on the Russian anti-doping agency Rusada has been lifted. That is an important victory for Russian diplomacy. After the initial expulsions in March by several countries of Russian diplomats including GRU officers, the British government further announced in September when it released the Boshirov and Petrov photos that it was going to roll back the GRU. They seem to be failing. They are losing ground, not gaining it. We will have to see whether the ban on Russian athletes is now also lifted. It may well be.

    As I have said before, the infrastructure of supply of sports dope and other “fitness substances” is one of the vectors along which a chemical weapons attack could take place. (Ditto the supply of drugs to street addicts.) A chemical attack need not involve an Aum Shinrikyo-style dropping of bags containing a nerve agent. Nor will it necessarily be known 100% to be a chemical attack. Nor will it necessarily have a rapid effect.

    Here we have the four spheres of intelligence work, chemical weapons, cyberwarfare and psychological warfare all coming together.

    • Paul Greenwood

      Yes but the Soviets succeeded in reincarnating as the EU according to Jeremy Hunt.

      Some of us consider Russia today as the freest Russia has ever been for most Russians

    • Jack

      Seems pretty coordinated,
      Netherlands, UK, US, EU, US (more?) have condemned Russia today.

      • Ingwe

        Yes, the bullshit machine is on turbo! What a load of obvious bollocks. To listen to the plummy mouthed, slack jawed, semi-literate UK ambassador to Holland, drooling over his own ‘brilliance’ on Wordl at One made me ashamed to be British.

        That was followed by the loathsome Jeremy Cu*t threatening Russia with ‘consequences’. And now we have the spoiled brat Tugentat, forever in the intellectual shadow of his father and brother, themselves supine establishment groupies.
        They must really think we are stupid. Even my neighbour, a Tory voter, thinks this anti Russian shyte is just that.

        • Jack

          Apparently Nato leader also came out with the same condemnation, yes obviously coordinated.

          • N_

            The western MSM are reporting the OPCW story together with the WADA story.

            It would be utterly crap psychological warfare to declare in public that “our terrible opponents have carried out PW attacks against us, and we’re going to get together to decide how to respond“. It’s pretty crap even to say in public that you’ve taken a PW hit. That’s something the opponent’s PW forces love to hear.

            PW and cyberwarfare have some similarities. E.g. unlike the use of lethal force, the treatment of prisoners, and in some cases the movement of matériel, neither PW nor cyberwarfare are governed by law. They are not even governed by customs.

            But PW is not the same as cyberwarfare. It is much older. It is as old as warfare itself. As Sun Tzu said, all warfare is based on deception. PW is not a “domain” and it does not constitute part of the fifth domain. Cyberwarfare is a domain. It is qualitatively different from the first four domains because the scope for deception makes it so.

            It’s also the case that the OPCW and WADA are not western agencies but international and supposedly neutral bodies (like the IAEA – haha!). There is of course nothing like presenting an adversarial case as supported by “objective” or “neutral” “evidence” or “expert opinions”, whether they speak in private-school born-to-command accents or the more demotic accents of officials who have received most of their wealth through their pay packets. A lot of this is fluff, mainly aimed at an internal market, akin to say what happens in the Archers or on Coronation Street. Calling for some kind of order as you’re running to a bunker can thereby be painted as defence or even perhaps offence. At least on screen it can. “Russians undermine the OPCW and Russian athletes cheat” wouldn’t be much of a basis for callup.

            In the PW battles at the moment, the NATO countries are taking big hits in relation to both cyber and CW (and by extension CBW). They are performing poorly. They are trying to whip themselves together and hold ranks, kind of mobilise a bit. They look almost as rubbish as they did when Estonia got cyberattacked in 2007.

            Will Rusada get rebanned? If yes, NATO will have scored a blow. If not, they will look even more as though they’re flailing.

            I’m predicting Rusada won’t get rebanned.

          • Radar O’Reilly

            In both cyberwarfare and psychological operations today the big winner appears to have the people’s republic of China, who have taken an NSA/GCHQ ‘ANT’ implant similar to and seeded servers from their manufacturers with nano-backdoor chips.

            FAANG affected! Apple are denying everything, Amazon’s Alexa is mute.

            Supermicro had >two billion dollars annual revenue , until this story broke – so it could be disinfo, but the cybercrime capabilities of a single nano extra chip on a mobo means that life is more complicated!

          • Antonyl

            China will win this stupid US-Russia confrontation so Western elite better start learning Chinese quickly. The CCP runs on party discipline so no solo actions too: practicing groveling.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Netherlands was always coordinated especially over MH17. Interesting that Uk still has Ambassadors in Eu States which makes the notion of EU a bit bizarre (but I suppose German Laender have Embassies in Berlin and Brussels !). Anyway, the British (Old Etonian) Ambassador in The Hague is actually UK Permanent Representative to OPCW as well. His daddy was a Sinologist called Lord Wilson of some Scottish fiefdom

    • Ken Kenn

      These are all episodes in a great play.

      Fair enough we can all analyse this act – that act but the game being played here is in my view pretty much
      straightforward grovelling to dear old US of A.

      The British governments past and present have grovelled and crawled to the US since I was a lad. In fact they have bought into the Nuke Missile buying business since the end of WW2. It was no coincidence that British CND never existed until the Soviet Union developed its nuke missiles.

      The end of The Cold War was meant end the Cold War and the naive/trusting Gorbachev thought that the US would keep its word and pull back from the Russian borders. To his surprise ( not mine at the time ) they didn’t and are now engaged – via the auspices of NATO ( basically the US run the show) in surrounding Russia dn China.

      What the Britsih grovellers are trying to do is display to the US that they are being picked on by the Russians and a bit like the small boy who encourages the playground bully to fight someone by hearsay and inference they want the bully to protect them from further threat via the school bully in question.

      The British are feeling threatened in NATO by another presently grovelling nation- France.

      Macron is cosying up to Trump and his Generals and may replace the UK at the side of the US at the big lads table.
      Please utilise our ” Force de Frappe”

      This is why the UK is going to buy probably useless nukes off the Yanks so that tit can at least stay at the table and not be asked to leave by the US.

      The irony is though is that these useless ( they are useless to the Yanks otherwise they wouldn’t be palming them off on the UK) will cost between 120 billion to 200 billion quid and the Brexiters and the government are whingeing about paying a post Brexit divorce bill.

      Two useless payments for two useless things.

      Talking of useless things.

      As a side note – when is someone going to get Gavin Williamson a row of medals for across his chest? He likes knocking about with US Generals and some of their phrases may have rubbed off on him.

      Typical chickenhawk though – talks a good fight – but will never be in the fight and like the US military starts crying when anyone from their side gets hurt.

      As we know only the Russians cheat and kill – but the West’s tactics are as clean as a whistle.

      And if anyone believes that – I’ve got some bottles of fake perfume to sell them on the Market in Salisbury this Saturday.

  • Pat Murphy

    Told Ireland the same on 1918, in 2022 we will be celebrating 100 years of freedom obtained through violence as talking achieved zero .

    • N_

      It may be a line in or a commentary on, I can’t remember, the 1967 film Rocky Road to Dublin that the history of Ireland after say 1916-22 is what can be expected when you have a revolution and then hand it over to the bourgeoisie and the church. Which isn’t quite how I’d put it, but that characterisation of the first half-century of “freedom” nonetheless has some truth in it.

  • Crispa

    Reading the posts about the energy situation in this country which sounds pretty dire and certainly not resolvable through fracking, which is a potential environmental disaster, it is not surprising that there is so much attacking of Russia when it expects up to 10 k people this week at its Russia Energy Week from all over the world buying and investing in its energy industry – more of a threat to this country’s economic interests than any cyber attacks I would say!

    • Sharp Ears

      Nor is ‘nuclear’ (or ‘nucular’ as Dubya called it) the answer, disposal of waste and the contaminated structures being the major problem.

      Welsh leaders urged to halt ‘nuclear mud’ dumping off Cardiff
      Sediment from Hinkley Point C construction site is being disposed of at Cardiff Grounds

      300,000 tons of contaminated mud is being dumped into the sea over a sandbank. There are fears that radioactive particles are present within the ‘waste’.

      I have had thyroid cancer, cured now thankfully but with damaging side effects on my voice and breathing from the surgery and Rx. The good ENT surgeon told me that he was dealing with an epidemic of cases, including in four local doctors. Thyroid cancer is acquired from the environment. What did I breathe in, eat or drink that contaminated me I ask? Was it from Chernobyl, the fire at Windscale, handily renamed Sellafield, or from diet or liquid?

      PS The sheep grazing n the fields surrounding Sellafield can never enter the food chain.

  • Loony

    Why not consider the Scottish government and the Scottish judiciary position on fracking?

    Nicola Sturgeon informed MSP;s that “Fracking is being banned in Scotland – end of story”
    The SNP website informed readers that “The Scottish government has put in place a ban on fracking in Scotland”
    In October 2017 Scottish Energy Minister one Paul Wheelhouse announced what he described as “an effective ban” on fracking.

    What can all of this mean? According to the Scottish Judiciary it means that fracking is not banned in Scotland and that any and all statements to the contrary made by members of the SNP merely constitute “PR gloss” and the “language of the press statement” The Scottish Judiciary very probably formed this impression as a consequence of their being urged to do so by lawyers for the Scottish government.

    …and what does all of this serve to do? Why undermine all the ability of Scotland’s one and only oil refinery and petrochemical complex to take rational business decisions. It is fortunate that no advocate of Scottish independence has ever advanced any type of argument that an independent Scotland may benefit from having access to its own indigenous oil reserves – otherwise people might wonder why the Scottish government is doing everything in its power to degrade the value of Scottish oil reserves.

    Still who cares about the economic welfare of the average Scotchman or the overall Scottish environment – certainly not the SNP. So if you are in Scotland and want to see the remains of your economy destroyed and massive damage to the environment then vote for independence. The SNP will allow you to claim that you had no idea that you would spend the rest of your life unemployed and that periodically the water from your tap would be subject to spontaneous combustion.

    • JOML

      Loony, the majority of the Scottish public have no desire to rip up the floorboards and throw them on the fire. Fortunately, some people do give a fuck about future generations. Do you give a fuck?

      • J

        A fuck is not given. And he doesn’t appear to know he’s the voice of our masters. Interesting.

    • Morag Branson

      No fracking will happen in Scotland as the SNP have stated on numerous occasions. Do you see fracking companies in Scotland? Do you wish to retract your ‘loony’ sentences?

      • Loony

        I have made no comment on the efficacy or otherwise of fracking.

        I have made a comment regarding the duplicitous nature of the SNP and by implication their brainwashed acolytes who seem to be begging to be lied to by the SNP.

        It is true that the SNP have repeatedly stated that no fracking will take place in Scotland – I have provided a number of quotes supporting that statement. It is also true that the SNP have argued in a court of law that all of those statements constitute nothing more than PR spin and are not to be relied upon in any way. The courts have accepted this argument.

        Given this fact pattern I am unable to discern how you can conclude that no fracking will take place in Scotland because the SNP have stated this on numerous occasions.

        By your own overt admission your conclusions are predicated on lies. This may be a relevant factor in whether other people take your arguments seriously.

  • Goose

    The UK seems unsalvageable from the grip of the Tory establishment.

    Three new appointments to the UK’s top appeal court: Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Sales.

    Sales defended the New Labour government’s decision against holding a public inquiry into the Iraq War in the High Court in 2005.

  • Sharp Ears

    Keeping it in the family
    A DESCENDANT of a Lancashire Witch Trial Judge is following in his relative’s footsteps exactly 400 years later – as a judge himself. Judge Robert Altham sits as a circuit judge in the Crown Court in the Castle, where his ancestor, Sir James Altham, was one of the King’s Justices who conducted the witch trials at Lancaster Assizes in August 1612.

    Judge Altham, 46, was born in Morecambe and educated at Sandylands Primary School and Lancaster Royal Grammar School. He studied Latin and Greek at University College London and later studied for the common professional exam at Birmingham University and at the Inns of Court School of Law in London


    Is this his Daddy?

    • laguerre

      Sounds like he’s pretty dim – grammar school, UCL and Birmingham. Would have needed the Freemason backing to get where he’s got. Freemason link didn’t work for me (must keep the riffraff out!).

      • Sharp Ears

        That’s strange. I did have to turn off my adblocker before I could access it.

        The article is about the service for 60 years of John Altham to his lodge and being honoured in the presence of the Assistant Provincial Grand Master and his life story (exactly as Craig described – the ship chandlers business and latterly the servicing of oil and gas rigs. He was born in 1932 and married Linda. They had two children, a daughter Jane and Robert (the judge). The old boy was a magistrate for 30 years RN Reserve etc etc The article is full of Masonic terminology and mumbo jumbo. All wearing their aprons, sashes, gloves and so on in the photos. The old boy has had an audience of the Pope and met Her Maj at a St James’ Palace reception so well in with the establishment.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Freemasonry works for second-tier Barristers who reach a point in mid-40s where their earnings peak and they look to the security of a judge’s pension. Since there are limited slots it helps if The Lodge can get you noticed and on the slate. Since Jack Straw failed in his attempt to get Freemasons outed – it is clear how prevalent they are.

        What is interesting is the Lodge Hierarchy and the Discipline Procedure which has Sitting Judges acting as “Judges” inside the Freemason Grand Lodge presumably hearing “Appeals” and sitting in Judgment of other “Judges” of the English Court System……..if that in itself is not corrupt, a parallel hierarchy – what is ?

    • pete

      RE keeping it in the family.
      I don’t know it John Altham is Robert Altham’s father but, of John, the Freemasons website says: “In 1958, John married Linda Margaret Parker and have celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary this year.. John and Linda have been blessed with two children, their daughter Jane and Robert their son. They have also been fortunate to have five lovely grandchildren.” So the name could just be a co-incidence. Public office is the price you have to pay if you want to wear outrageous regalia.

  • Hatuey

    James Kelly’s article was excellent, I agree. But there’s a third option for Scotland and sadly it’s the most likely.

    I’ve watched a few organisations go through this process over the years. They start off with a goal, fail to reach it, and, then, instead of admitting defeat and making fundamental changes to their approach, they go into denial mode.

    The original goal becomes nothing more than a sort of slogan that is vaguely referred to when they want to sell season tickets or win elections.

    The idea of independence for Scotland is more or less doomed to play the same part that “socialism” plays in Labour Party politics, heaven plays in Christine doctrine, and Jannah plays in Islam, give or take a few virgins.

    The truth is it’s already that. You’ll hear about it from time to time, “this is it, guys, we mean it this time..”, in amongst pleas for cash and other promises.

    If independence happens, it’s more likely to happen without the SNP now. I can easily imagine people en masse saying “fuck this” and taking to the streets. If they do, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the SNP doing everything possible to get them back into their boxes.

    That’s the way it goes. It’s bleak. All politicians are scum, they fleece you every time.

  • JOML

    xeno, there’s a fine line between ‘protect’ and ‘control’. If you can’t see that, make yourself a hot chocolate, turn on Strictly, and put your trust in your rulers to ‘protect’ you.

  • Zoltan Jorovic

    Where I live this happens all the time. B*st*rds in high vis jackets are forever blocking the road by digging holes in it, but I have never yet succeeded with any of my lawsuits. Nor do they seem to be held accountable for denying me or my neighbours the right and freedom to use the roads our taxes paid for.

    • Anon1

      Sounds like another yawn fest from the self-appointed arbiters of truth at media lens. They’re really up themselves those two aren’t they? And a forward from Pilger to boot!

      • Makropulos

        We are all “self-appointed arbiters of truth” i.e. we all have our view which – tautologically – we assume to be true.

    • Anthony

      Excellent book. Shows how all the propaganda blitzes of recent years and earlier have conformed to the same formula. You will recognize all the tactics deployed. Reactionary defenders of elites who don’t give a toss about them will claim not to.

    • J

      If anon could account for world events with a fraction of the lucidity and basic empiricism of Media lens, by God we’d all have heard it by now. Wasn’t he still gloating about an electoral wipeout for Labour as the figures were coming in? Yawn indeed.

  • Heather Stroud

    I’m still trying to process this because the contrast of how fracking protest has been dealt with by the police and the courts in York as compared to Lancashire, couldn’t be more different.
    We have had lorry surfing here in Ryedale however on those occasions (to my knowledge) the police intervened and removed the surfer from the vehicle. It’s been the same with lock-ons. I chained myself to the gate at KM8 as a protest, not just against fracking but as a symbolic gesture of re-claiming democracy. The police were reluctant to arrest me, however because I refused to tell them where the keys were so that I could unlock myself (after 45minutes) they secured some bolt cutters and cut through the chain. Since I was defending myself I was given a full day in court where I was told that I could say whatever I wanted. My defence was political- it was about democracy, human rights, the harms of fracking. I presented over 400 pages of evidence. I didn’t hesitate to speak about how our government in servitude to corporate banking and military lobbyists was leading us on a ecocidal and genocidal path. The Crown Prosecution raised the issue of ecocide not being ‘yet’ recognised as a criminal offence. Had it been the case then my defence of acting as a person of conscience to prevent a greater (harm/crime) would likely have held up. Although found guilty of taking direct action the District Judge stated that history would be my Judge. I was given six months conditional discharge, no fine (only £20 statutory victim support fund) and the prosecution waved all court costs.
    In Lancashire it seems the police made the decision not to get them down – hence the 90 plus hour hold up. The Judge didn’t allow the defence of harms of fracking and he punished the our young protectors for not pleading guilty.

    • nevermind

      Well done Heather and thanks for coming here and telling us about your protective KM8.

      This will be a.GE issue and those in Lytham St. Anne’s will have to justify their ignorance of PNR protectors soon, not just from their childten but a Labpur Govrrnment that will promote cheaper and far less damaging alternatives.

      Please convey my and others thank you to your fellow protectors.

    • Paul Greenwood

      CPS is not really a “service” since they hire external Solicitors to do prosecution. It is a shambles really. As for Court were you before a Magistrate or a District Judge ? Sounds like 6 months was the highest sentence he could give which sounds like Magistrate

      • Heather Stroud

        Paul, it was a District Judge at Magistrates Court. Six moths conditional discharge and no fine or court costs was a very low penalty. It was actually quite an uplifting experience to be allowed to speak so freely and in his summing up his remarks regarding that it would be history who would be the judge, was read as expressing the judge sharring our concerns about the fracking industry. The Crown Prosecutor was equally helpful in many ways, especially with regard to raising the important issue of ecocide not ‘yet’ being a serious criminal offence alongside genocide. It was such a liberating experience to participate in a court room that everyone clapped at the end.
        All this was quite different to the defendants experience in Lancashire.

  • William MacDougall

    Don’t be silly. The Spanish government refused any referendum at all in Catalonia. The UK government not only permitted a Scottish referendum, but it let the separatists choose the timing, the wording and the electorate. Even then it was decisively defeated. Of course it’s reasonable to insist on a few years delay before repeating the exercise.

    • Hatuey

      “it’s reasonable to insist on a few years delay before repeating the exercise.”

      I disagree, but it has been a few years. Things have changed significantly in those few years too. Scotland was told it could only count on staying in the EU if it voted to remain part of the UK. It turned out that this was the opposite of the truth.

      The country is now being trolled by creepy Tory slime bags that very few Scots vote for. Stoking sectarianism, which is what the Tories have done, won’t help either, it will make more people in Scotland even more determined to get out if the dysfunctional UK relationship.

      • William MacDougall

        Things always change, but 13 years is not a long time to wait for another referendum. Re the EU, it cuts both ways, yes Scotland is being forced to leave, but at the same time leaving increases Scotland’s economic ties with England. Let the change settle in, to see what it means for Scotland, before voting again.

        • Hatuey

          No. You’re out of touch with reality if you believe what you’re saying has any appeal to ordinary Scottish people. Outside of the brainwashed, the idiotic, and the lackeys, your proposal will be rejected out of hand. And it isn’t up to you to pluck figures like 13 years out of your anus and shove them down the throats of others.

          • William MacDougall

            Alex Salmond said it was a “once in a generation” opportunity. Personally I’d agree with Salmond, and wait 25 years, but I can live with 13 years. What Scotland and Britain can not live with is the repeated uncertainty of referendums every couple years. And I think polls and election results are suggesting that Scots do not want another referendum any time soon. By the way, how soon after independence would you allow a vote to rejoin the UK?

      • Paul Greenwood

        Scotland could only stay in EU if United Kingdom did since it is United Kingdom that signed the Treaty.

        If Scotland wanted independence and to apply to join the EU as a sovereign state it would need a Central Bank, a Currency, a Border Wall with checkpoints to define EU external frontier and a Passport. On which basis it would define a “Scottish Citizen” has not yet been made clear but I do think Scots-born persons living outside Scotland might want to know before they lose their UK Passport

        • William MacDougall

          And Scots born in Scotland but currently living outside, at least for less than say 15 years, should have a vote too, as they did in the EU referendum.

    • J

      And if the propaganda channel, basically all mainstream media, had instead been in favour of a yes vote, would the outcome still have been a no? The answer to that is probably more decisive.

  • N_

    Why is the cybersecurity of the OPCW in the Hague the responsibility of the Dutch authorities? The western move here seems to be all over the place.

    Which is “the small UK-based television station”?

    Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is such a silly sod.

    Security expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said the cyber attacks in The Hague and at Porton Down showed Putin was bent on disrupting the investigation into the novichok attack in Salisbury.

    He would be, eh? A bad foreigner can’t want something or aim to achieve it. He’s got to be “bent” on it.

    Mr de Bretton-Gordon said: ‘It shows how the Russians did everything they could to undermine and disrupt the novichok investigation and try to make it fall apart. It is completely cynical and they didn’t care at all’.

    He added: ‘The British secret services may have considered the GRU as equals but the past few months have shown they are amateurish and the West is now one step ahead of them. Putin will not like that and there will be a lot of anger in Moscow about some of these recent bungled missions’.

    One step a head of them, my arse!

    Russian spies launched cyber attack from boot of rented Citroen using ‘basic’ hacking method… but left trail of clues including taxi receipts and cans of Heineken in an Aldi bag.

    Next the Tory media is going to call them “Poundshop Peepers”. Might as well imagine throwing everyone they hate in a single pit. Meanwhile, if any more foreign brand names got mentioned in that sentence, a computer at MI6, the Foreign Office or the Daily Heil would probably have exploded!

    Where does the photo of the open-booted car come from? If MI6, DIS or Dutch defence intelligence knew of all this GRU hacking at the time, why did they let it achieve one of its goals, namely the unbanning of Rusada? Or is it only the OPCW hacking they knew about? Imagine that, eh? Had they revealed what they knew, they could have stopped the removal of the Rusada ban. Were they too busy filing reports on Russian “bungling”?

    The question is what will Britain and NATO now do? Anything? Creating new cyber-attack teams is redolent of stable doors.

    Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK’s Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted: ‘The catalogue of evidence shows why the Dutch are excellent partners and that the decades of theft have stripped Russia’s intelligence of the skills they once had. Putin’s corrupt greed has turned the GRU into an amateurish bunch of jokers.’

    The privately-educated Tory c***s, whose parents despised their presence so much they sent them to boarding schools, have got nothing to worry about then. Unlike Russians, they are excellent in every way, honest, skilful, full of integrity, unselfish, professional, and serious. And if Dutch colleagues are listening, here’s a pat on the head and some biscuits for you!

  • Patmur

    About the SNP leadership backing out of a second Scottish referendum. Might it not be that they waiting until after Brexit? If it is a hard Brexit we may be thrown into a period of long term chaos, which will obviously favour the Yes camp. But there is a second point. Once the UK is out of the EU the European Commission will no longer have any need to support the UK Government by denying Scotland a place in the EU after independence (as it did with Spain and Catalonia). Quite the opposite actually, indeed they may be able to invite not only an independent Scotland back into the EU but possibly also Wales. In fact it would also to some extent ameliorate the Irish Republic’s geographical isolation from the rest of the EU. This is something which several Dutch friends of mine has pointed out. Indeed their may only be a referendum after the fact. In order to avoid a bust up between the US and the EU they may decide basically for Scotland and Wales to rejoin the EU and the US get basically an English satellite state. This might happen with large demonstrations in Edinburgh and Glasgow waving European flags and the US and EU basically recognising the independence of Scotland (there is after all a precedent for this as this is what happened in former Yugoslavia. Where the west recognized Slovene and Croat independence without a referendum in either state – and thereby turning the Yugoslav Army overnight into an army of occupation. .

    • Hatuey

      Interesting points.

      We have lost faith in the EU, though. Nobody expected them to recognise Catalonia as an independent state last year but they might have came out publicly on the issue of clubbing innocent people.

      No matter what happens with the Brexit negotiations, the EU won’t want to do anything that undermines the integrity of the UK or piss off the British Government.

      The real problem with Scotland is that too many of the people there buy BBC / British propaganda. That’s what lost the referendum. It’s ridiculous, I know, this the largest oil and renewables producer in the EU, with untold natural resources, whisky exports, tourism, fishing, etc., and these stupid people believe their country is poor.

      If any other country the size of Scotland had just one of those things going for it, the people would rightly be happy and confident. But in Scotland they are told that their massive assets are a curse, a burden.

      That’s the power of BBC lies.

  • Petra

    “Some of the steps we need to take will be deemed illegal.”

    Resulting in some people going to prison no doubt. This coming from a man who sloped off from a protest group to stay in a hotel every night, instead of sleeping in a tent. Good one right enough.

    Let’s just focus on getting our freedom through legal means. Start as we mean to go on.

  • Sharp Ears

    I noticed that the person chosen to launch the DEC appeal for Palu and environs is Dan Snow, son in law of the late 6th Duke of Westminster who was said to be one of the wealthiest people in the country. Are the Westminster family making a large contribution to the appeal? Do hope so.

    The figures for those poor souls who lost their lives is not available as yet.

    However, I well remember that the BBC under the command of Caroline Thomson COO and Mark Thompson DG, refused to air the DEC appeal for Gaza after Israel’s Cast Lead war in which 1,471 Palestinians were killed, +5,000 injured and most of the infrastructure, such as it existed, destroyed.–09)

    Probably best not to make any comparisons.

    • MaryPau!

      I posted this before but it seemed to get lost. Dan Snow and family live quietly in the South of England a long way from her family home in Cheshire. They are active environmentalists. I read an interview where she said she was basically giving away her personal fortune to causes she believes in.

      • Paul Greenwood

        I think Lady Edwina Grosvenor has no personal fortune. Just because a farmer’s lad made his way from Cheshire to Middlesex to marry a farmer’s daughter was not sufficient to keep an expanding family over 200 years in milk and honey even if their farm did become urbanised in Londinium and involve trading space in Grosvenor Square for a US Embassy in return for bits of Florida.

        I think there are so many Trusts and Entailments that Lady Edwina gets to snack at the table rather than raid the larder

      • Sharp Ears

        Dan Snow, son of Peter Snow, cousin of Jon Snow. Dan – St Paul’s School and Balliol.
        Nepotism rules OK.

        Lady Edwina – Great-grandparents: Lord Hugh Grosvenor, John Lyttelton, 9th Viscount Cobham, Anastasia de Torby, Harold Augustus Wernher

        Dan – Margaret MacMillan (aunt) Jon Snow (first cousin once removed) George Snow (great-uncle)
        Thomas Snow (great-grandfather) David Lloyd George (great-great-grandfather) Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster (father-in-law) Natalia Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster (mother-in-law) .

        P Diana was her godmother and her father was P William’s godfather. I think I saw her brother at one of the many recent royal christenings. You need to have a sub to the Tatler to keep up!

        Edwina is a prison reformer and has set up the Clink restaurants in prisons. The middle classes around here go on coach trips to Highdown Prison for lunch. ‘Marvellous food’ etc. Most impressed that they have to go through ‘security’. It gives them a vicarious thrill. A pity that the prisons are in such a terrible state under the Tory partei rule.

        Puff piece here in the Garudian. Wish they would all go away into obscurity. No such luck.

        A reminder that the previous Duke was installed at RUSI, the warmongers’ meet. And that Dan,
        and his father Peter Snow, (both of whom have been given the run of the BBC) were two of the 200 signatories to the letter opposing self rule for the Scots. Why don’t they keep their beaks out of it? Who do they think they are?

        The Establishment Rules, OK!

        • MaryPau!

          Indeed there is nepotism in all walks of life. Fields like the media and politics seem particularly prone but that maybe because, in general terms, most well educated articulate people could have a stab somewhere in the area. In other fields, where a professional qualification is needed to practise, it is more difficult to dish out jobs to relatives unless they have followed in their parents footsteps. In newer technologies like computing, it is more or less impossible.

          I do think we should not rush to condemn everyone who goes against their family background as insincere. There are plenty of examples oh how they can make a difference. Florence Nightingale, to pull a figure from history. came from a very wealthy background and her family were appalled when she decided to reform nursing. In my own immediate family our political views cross the spectrum. My son and daughter in law are members of the local Tory and Labour Parties respectively.

        • IrishU

          ‘You need to have a sub to the Tatler to keep up!’ – why bother? If you have such a problem with the Royals and the aristocracy why search them out?

          ‘… were two of the 200 signatories to the letter opposing self rule for the Scots. Why don’t they keep their beaks out of it?’ – The signatories of that letter were against the break-up of their country, i.e the UK and politely expressed their desire for Scotland to reject independence. To use emotive language such as ‘opposing self rule’ is a hilarious and contrived attempt to paint them, and the other 198 signatories, as villains.

          ‘Who do they think they are?’ – Are they not allowed to express an opinion? You pontificate on here on a variety of subjects. What gives you anymore of right than Dan Snow to comment on issues, apart from your inverted snobbery?

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