Monthly Archives: January 2019


Adab Festival Pakistan

Am giving a talk in Karachi on Sunday, and very much looking forward to it. Entry is free. This blog has a number of regular readers and two donating subscribers in Karachi, and it would be a great pleasure if they can introduce themselves. I am speaking primarily on Sikunder Burnes, (after whom Karachi’s famous Burnes Road is named), but shall happily wander off into the vicious folly of modern western military interference in Afghanistan, the illegality of drone strikes, the two century long history of western exploitation and exacerbation of the Sunni/Shia divide, and the great work of Julian Assange.

As always, I shall also be talking about why Scottish Independence, just like Irish, should be seen in the context of decolonisation, despite the eventual co-option of Scots to the Imperial project. As I have explained till I am blue in the face, the domestic law of the metropolitan country is utterly irrelevant to the legality of secession; the only determining factor is international recognition.

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The Vultures of Caracas

We are frequently told that people in Venezuela have no food, clothing or toilet paper, and that popular discontent with the left wing government is driven by real hunger. There are elements of truth in this story, though the causes of economic dislocation are far more complex than the media would have us believe.

But I ask you to look at this photo of supporters of CIA poster-boy, the West’s puppet unelected “President” Juan Guaido, taken at a Guaido rally in Caracas two days ago and published yesterday in security services house journal The Guardian. Please take a really close look at the photo. Blow it up as big as you can. Scan individual people in the crowd, one by one.

These are not the poor and most certainly not the starving. As it chances I have a great deal of life experience working amongst seriously deprived, hungry and despairing people. I know the gaunt face of want and the desperate glance of need. Look at these Guaido supporters, one by one by one. This designer spectacled, well-coiffed, elegantly dressed, sleekly jowled group does not know hunger. This group does not know want. This is a proper right wing gathering, a gathering of the nicely off section of society. This is a group of those who have corruptly been siphoning Venezuela’s great wealth for decades and who want to make sure the gravy train flows properly in their direction again. It is, in short, a group of exactly the kind of people you would expect to support a CIA coup.

Those manicured hands raised in the air will never throw rocks, or get involved in violence unless against a peasant strapped to a chair for them. It is not this crowd which will suffer as public disorder is manipulated and directed by the CIA. These wealthy ones are immune, just as Davos serves as nothing but an annual reminder of how very poorly God aims avalanches.

There is real suffering in Venezuela. The CIA is working hard to stoke violence, and the genuine poor will soon start to die, both in those egged on to riot and in the security services. But do not get taken in by the complete nonsense that this is a popular, democratic revolution. It is not. It is yet another barefaced CIA regime change coup.

UPDATE Such wisdom as this blog finds is often crowd-source, and with thanks to a commenter below here is some useful information from Jill Stein.

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Burns Night Disgrace

As Robert Burns lay dying, he was plagued by his debts and creditors and worried about the future of his family. He wrote an anguished letter to Montrose to his first cousin James Burnes, begging him to send £20 to pay off, among other things, the tailor for Robert’s customs officer uniform. James, not for the first time, sent the money uncomplainingly to his beloved cousin.

Robert (who was christened Robert Burnes) had visited James at least twice in Montrose. The family home which James built was later the birthplace of his grandson Alexander Burnes, the great explorer, spy and diplomat whose biography I have written, and of his almost equally remarkable brother James. Alexander’s father, also James Burnes, was the first of four successive generations of Burnes born in the family house to become Provost of Montrose.

I detailed in my book Sikunder Burnes that, when I visited the house ten years ago, it was derelict and most of the features had been robbed out. It has continued to deteriorate. This has been quite deliberate and the owner, an auctioneer, had been systematically robbing it of fireplaces, cornices, the provost lamp, and other items of value and auctioning them off. Shocking new photos reveal that he completed this work of destruction to an astonishing degree, and the items of interest – like some amazing Victorian baths and sinks – that remained in the property when I saw it a decade ago have also gone.

The work of destruction complete, this historic building, built by one of Scotland’s most truly remarkable families, is now a shell and up for auction to a property developer. I had contacted Historic Environment Scotland, Angus Council and the Scottish Government to attempt to have something done, but with no result.

So tonight as we recite those great poems, remember a life full of humanity, and get maudlin drunk, let us consider how much we really care about Burns and his heritage. I am an emotional old fool I know, and got attached to Alexander when researching his life, but these images made me cry.


If anybody still has not read my biography of Alexander Burnes, if you can afford to do so please buy it, otherwise your local library will be able to get it for you.

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The Coup in Venezuela Must Be Resisted

Venezuela has elections. Juan Guaido has never even been a Presidential candidate. Despite massive CIA opposition funding and interference over years as Big Oil tries to regain control of the World’s largest oil reserves, Nicolas Maduro was democratically re-elected in 2018 as President of Venezuela.

The coup now under way is illegitimate. I opposed Maduro’s move to replace the elected National Assembly. Sometimes I read back things I wrote in the past and decide I was wrong. Sometimes I think the article was right, but a bit of a potboiler. Occasionally I am proud, and I am proud of my analysis on Venezuela written on 3 August 2017. I believe it is still valid.

Hugo Chavez’ revolutionary politics were founded on two very simple tenets:

1) People ought not to be starving in dreadful slums in the world’s most oil rich state
2) The CIA ought not to control Venezuela

Over the years, Chavez racked up real achievements in improving living standards for the poor and in providing health and education facilities. He was widely popular and both he and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, also racked up very genuine election victories. Maduro remains the democratically elected President.

But the dream went sour. In particular it fell foul of the tendency of centrally planned economies to fail to get the commodities people want onto shop shelves, and to the corruption that goes with centralisation. The latter was certainly not worse than the right wing corruption it replaced, but that does not diminish its existence.

Every revolution will always displace an existing elite who are by definition the best educated and most articulate section of the population, with most access to resources including media – and to CIA secret backing, which has continued throughout at an increasing rate. Chavez did not solve this problem in the way Robespierre, Stalin, Trotsky or Mao would have done. He embraced democracy, let them be – and largely left their private offshore billions, and thus their power, untouched.

Inevitably the day came when economic and administrative failings cracked the solidity of support from the poor for the revolution. The right then stepped up their opposition with a campaign led by corrupt billionaires, which the western media has failed to acknowledge has been throughout murderously violent.

The problem with revolutionary millenarianism is that its failure to achieve utopia is viewed as disaster by its proponents. Maduro ought to have accepted that it is the nature of life that political tides ebb and flow, ceded power to the opposition gains in parliament, maintained the principles of democracy, and waited for the tide to turn back his way – taking the risk that the CIA might not give him the chance. Instead he has resorted to a constitutional fix which dilutes democracy, a precedent which will delight the right who in the long term have most to fear from the populace. Given the extreme violence of the opposition, I am less inclined to view arrests as unquestionably a straightforward human rights matter, than are some pro-western alleged human rights groups. But that Maduro has stepped off the democratic path I fear is true. He has, bluntly, gone wrong, however difficult the circumstances. I condemn both the departures from human rights best practice and the attempt to use a part indirectly elected body to subvert the elected parliament.

But, even today, Venezuela is still vastly more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia, and a far greater respecter of human rights than Israel in its dreadful repression of the Palestinians. Yet support for Israel and for Saudi Arabia are keystones of the foreign policy of those who today are incessant in their demands that we on the “left” condemn Venezuela. The BBC has given massively more news coverage to human rights abuse in Venezuela this last month than in a score of much worse countries I could name – than a score put together.

Human rights abuse should be condemned everywhere. But it only hits the headlines when practised by a country which is on the wrong side of the neo-con agenda.

Anybody who believes that a country’s internal democracy is the determining factor in whether the West decides to move for violent regime change in that country, is a complete idiot. Any journalist or politician who makes that claim is more likely to be a complete charlatan than a complete idiot. In recent years, possession of hydrocarbon reserves is very obviously a major factor in western regime change actions.

In Latin America over the last century, the presence of internal democracy has been much more likely to lead to external regime change than its absence, as maintenance of US imperialist hegemony has been the defining factor. That combines with oil reserves to make the current move a double whammy.

It is disheartening to see the Western “democracies” so universally supporting the coup in Venezuela. The EU in particular has leapt in to support Donald Trump in the quite ludicrous act of recognising corrupt Big Oil puppet Guaido as “President”. The change of the EU into full neo-con mode -so starkly represented in its bold support for Francoist violence in Catalonia – is what led me to reconcile with Brexit and a Norway style relationship.

When I was in the FCO, the rule on recognition was very plain and very openly stated – the UK recognised the government which had “effective control of the territory”, whatever the attributes of that government. This is a very well established principle of international law. There were very rare exceptions involving continuing to support ousted governments. The pre-1939 Polish government in exile was the most obvious example, though once Nazism was defeated Britain moved to recognise the Communist government actually in charge, to the fury of exiled Poles. I was involved in the question of the continued recognition of President Kabbah of Sierra Leone during the period in which he was ousted by military coup.

But I can think of no precedent at all for recognising a President who does not have and has never had control of the country – and has never been a candidate for President. This idea of the West simply trying to impose a suitably corrupt and biddable leader is really a very startling development. It is astonishing the MSM commentariat and political class appear to see no problem with it. It is a quite extraordinary precedent, and doubtless will lead to many new imperialist adventures.

One final thought. The right wing Government of Ecuador has been one of the first and most vocal in doing the West’s bidding. The Ecuadorean government has been colluding with the United States over the efforts to imprison Julian Assange, and at this very time has arranged for FBI and CIA personnel in Quito to take false and malicious statements manufactured by the Ecuador government in collaboration with the CIA, about Julian Assange’s activities in the Embassy in London.

Ecuadorean government documents had already been produced out of Quito, and shown to MI6 and CIA outlets like the Guardian and New York Times, purporting to show the diplomatic appointment of Julian Assange to Moscow in December 2017. I have believed throughout that these fake documents were most likely produced by Ecuador’s new CIA influenced government itself.

Today Ecuador, once a key part of the Bolivarian revolution, is simply a puppet of the CIA, voicing support for a US coup in Venezuela and working to produce fake testimony against Assange. I warn you firmly against giving credence to Luke Harding’s next “scoop” which will doubtless shortly emerge from this process.

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Why Leslie Evans Must Resign

Scotland’s retention of its own legal system, based on an entirely different legal inheritance to the Anglo-Saxon one, is an important part of its national heritage. Senior judiciary and lawyers held a unique social status in national life for many centuries, as joint custodians with the Church of the residual national autonomy. The lawyers of Edinburgh are still a formidable, and broadly conservative, caste. That caste is collectively astonished by the revelations in the Alex Salmond case, and especially by the Scottish Government’s brazen reaction to the judgement of Lord Pentland and the inexplicable failure of Leslie Evans to resign. Secrets that are sealed and kept from the public are shared in whispers amongst the legal brotherhood. In the corridors of the Court of Session, in the robing rooms, in the Signet Library, in the Bow Bar, in the fine restaurants concealed behind medieval facades in the Old Town, in the New Club, the facts whirl round and round, in an atmosphere approaching indignation.

I think now you should share in some of those facts.

The Scottish Government’s version of events was that in December 2017 a new civil service code was adopted which allowed complaints to be made against former ministers. That new code was published to staff on the Scottish Government intranet, which resulted in two complaints against Alex Salmond being received in January of 2018.

Neither I, nor the collective consciousness of legal Edinburgh, can recall any example in history of a government being caught in a more systematic and egregious lie by a judge, but yet continuing to insist it is in the right and will continue on the same course. Every point of the above official government story was proven not just to be wrong, but to be a lie, because Lord Pentland called a Commission on Diligence.

This is a little known and little used process in Scots Law where one party challenges whether the other party has really produced all the important evidence in disclosure. A Commissioner is appointed who, in closed session, hears evidence on oath as to what documents are available and their meaning.

The Scottish Government had opposed before Lord Pentland the setting up of the Commission on Diligence, on the grounds that there was no more relevant documentation – which turned out in itself to be a massive lie.

Over the Festive period, the Commission in the Salmond case obtained quite astonishing evidence that proved the Scottish Government was lying through its teeth and attempting to hide a great many key documents. The oral evidence under oath, particularly from Leslie Evans given on 23 December 2018, was even more jaw-dropping. It is because of what was revealed behind closed doors in the Commission on Evidence that legal Edinburgh cannot believe Leslie Evans has not resigned.

The truth is that Judith Mackinnon, the “Investigating Officer” in this case, was closely involved in the new and unprecedented procedure for complaints against “former ministers” from at the latest 7 November and had multiple direct contacts with the complainants against Salmond at the very latest from early December 2017 – just three months after Mackinnon took up her job as “Head of People Advice”. On or shortly after 7 November 2017, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans was briefed about the complaint, which fact was minuted, in a manner that very definitely made Evans acutely aware of Mackinnon’s involvement. Evans claimed on 23 December 2018 under oath to have not noticed this, or to have forgotten it.

Evans being informed of the potential complaint against Salmond on or shortly after 7 November, coincided very closely with the initiation within the Civil Service in Scotland of the drafting of a new Civil Service Code enabling complaints against former ministers. This Civil Service activity included seeking the views of the Cabinet Office in London on creating a code enabling complaints against ex-ministers. The Cabinet Office in London did not support the idea. Nevertheless on 22 November 2017 the First Minister agreed the change in principle, as in line with the aims of the MeToo movement.

Judith Mackinnon’s preparation of the complainants against Salmond then entered a higher gear. She had numerous meetings and communications with both complainants in early December 2017. At the same time, she was continuing to be actively involved in the drafting of the new Code to enable the case she was working on. Astonishingly, the two complainants were themselves actually sent the draft Former Ministers Procedure for comment by Judith Mackinnon, before it was adopted! One of them, who had left the Civil Service, also appeared from the records to be potentially encouraged by another senior civil servant with the suggestion of the prospect of employment. Both were told by Mackinnon that she was likely to be the chosen “investigator”.

The Former Ministers Procedure in final form was not adopted and active until 20 December 2017, when it was signed off by Nicola Sturgeon, wweks after Mackinnon initiated action to proceed with complaints against Salmond. The new procedure was not advertised on the Intranet to staff until 8 February 2018, two months after Mackinnon’s first meeting with at least one of the complainants.

Contrary to the lies of the Scottish Government, zero complaints against Alex Salmond were received from staff following the publication to staff of the new former ministers procedure on the Intranet. The only two complaints had both been canvassed and encouraged a minimum of three months earlier.

Leslie Evans was aware of Judith Mackinnon’s role in the process at least from November 7 2017. Evans was repeatedly informed throughout December 2017 of the development of the complaints and of Mackinnon’s – and other civil servants’ -contacts with the complainants. The complaints against Salmond were being developed in parallel with the drafting of the Code which would retrospectively cover them, and being developed by the same people doing the drafting, and even the complainants were consulted on the draft Code. It was not until January 2018 that Mackinnon was appointed as “Investigating Officer” despite the fact that the Civil Service Code stipulated that the Investigating Officer must have “no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter”. She had in fact had intensive contact with the complainers over two months and had been active in the development of the procedure for three months. There is no indication that Mackinnon was keeping that secret from her senior colleagues or the Permanent Secretary, Evans.

Nicola Sturgeon, reacting to her Government’s court defeat, disingenuously described to Holyrood Mackinnon’s contacts with the complainants as merely “welfare support and guidance”. Sturgeon knows for a fact that is not true. The documents the Scottish Government was forced by the Commission to disclose prove that Mackinnon’s involvement comprised, as described in open court:

the substance of the complaint, evidence to support the complaints, circumstances in which they arose, the manner in which they could go on to make formal complaints and a significant decree of assistance to the complainers bordering on encouragement to proceed with their complaints.

Still more of a lie is Leslie Evans’ astonishing and unrepentant statement after the humiliating capitulation of the Government case before Lord Pentland. It is a statement woven through with falsehood and deceit, but the most obviously untrue point of all is her refusal to acknowledge what the documents show, that she knew full well all this was happening at the time.

After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point – contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018.
The full picture only became evident in December 2018 as a result of the work being undertaken to produce relevant documents in advance of the hearing.

Evans’ blatant attempt to pretend she knew nothing, and thus throw Mackinnon under the bus alone, is morally disgusting. Still more so is her utterly false claim that, the case having fallen after she conceded it on the basis Mackinnon ought not to have been appointed Investigating Officer, all Alex Salmond’s other legal points fell. Evans’ statement reads:

All the other grounds of Mr Salmond’s challenge have been dismissed.

That is a total untruth. It was made perfectly plain in Lord Pentland’s Court that, the Scottish Government having conceded the case, there was no point in hearing all the other grounds. This was made specific in court, where the other points were described as “now academic”.

I hope I have managed to make plain to you that Mackinnon’s appointment as Investigating Officer was the least of the many dreadful things of which the Scottish Government was guilty in this case. They naturally conceded on the least embarrassing. In fact, the entire matter is an orchestrated stitch-up.

Finally, I am obliged to consider the role of the First Minister and her subsequent defence of Evans and Mackinnon. I do so with the heaviest of hearts, because I know that any criticism at all of Nicola Sturgeon is considered utterly inadmissible by many of my fellow campaigners for Scottish Independence. Believe me, if I did not feel a strong obligation to truth I would much prefer not to speak of it.

But consider this, with as open a mind as you can muster.

Sturgeon’s defence of Mackinnon, as doing no more in the instigation of the complaints than provide welfare counselling and advice, is completely untrue. Sturgeon knows very well that it is untrue.

Consider this as well. Had the Scottish Government not thrown in the towel, Nicola’s Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd would that day have been questioned under oath about documents that she would have had to produce to the Court. Lloyd may well also not be anxious to be questioned about the leak of salacious details of one of the allegations, to David Clegg of the Daily Record. Lloyd knows Clegg well.

It really is very difficult to look through all the facts – including some I have not given here as they have not been referred to in open court – and conclude that Nicola was unaware of the stitch-up. I have spoken to dozens of sources this last three weeks, including many elected SNP figures, a couple of civil servants, and others who know Nicola personally. This is my conclusion, based on their extensive observations.

It is no secret that feminism is Nicola’s passion. A gender-balanced Cabinet, all-female shortlists for SNP Holyrood candidates, gender balance on boards of public authorities, these and many more are results of Nicola’s feminist activism in government, much of it admirable. Leslie Evans is close to her and a key ally in driving forward that agenda.

Leslie Evans has built a career out of promoting PC identity politics within local authorities and the civil service. In this story of her dishonesty when an officer at Edinburgh City Council, that appears to be her motivation against the project she sought to penalise. Evans frequently states her feminist principles.

And my gender politics too – my feminism – and I am a feminist – dates back to learning about Elizabeth 1st’s speech at Tilbury (‘I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king’)…
Most Permanent Secretaries are male and the product of private schooling and the Oxbridge system. You might have noticed I’m none of these things. In fact I am only the 30th female Perm Sec in whole history of the UKCS and the first female Perm Sec in Scotland has ever seen.

She was chosen, from a shortlist, to head the Civil Service in Scotland by Nicola. I am quite certain that the fact she was a woman with a history of promoting gender issues was a major factor in Nicola’s choice. Precisely the same factors also characterise Judith Mackinnon’s career in human resources, as I previously reported. Here is Leslie Evans on gender equality throughout Scottish government:

There’s another key difference between Scotland’s government and the UK’s – for Holyrood’s a world leader in gender diversity. Not only are the perm sec and the leaders of the three biggest parties women, but also half the cabinet, half the directors general, and 46% of the senior civil service.

As in all fields of diversity, Evans warns, this parity’s fragile: “It only takes one or two people to leave, and you’ve got a completely different balance again. You can never have the luxury of thinking you’ve done it.” And does achieving that balance change how government operates? She’s cautious. “I’d be foolish to say that this government feels very different from others, or that the cabinet operates in a markedly different way,” she replies. “I do think there are some broad themes that I can pick out. I think women tend to be a bit more collaborative; sometimes they’re a bit more thoughtful, and less likely to jump to conclusions. But I’m sure that people would challenge me on some of that thinking.”

This key ITV News article from 2015 was headlined “Sturgeon’s Women Power vs Cameron’s Man Power”

But Ms Sturgeon has also made her mark at the heart of government.
Women now occupy the three most important jobs in Scottish politics.
That’s in marked contrast to the big jobs in Downing Street, all held by men.
As it happens there are also significant educational differences too.
In Scotland the top three women were all state educated.
South of the Border they all went to public (in other words private) schools.
Here’s the roll call:
There’s Ms Sturgeon herself who went to Greenwood Academy in Ayrshire, and on to Glasgow University.
Her chief of staff and senior political adviser, Liz Lloyd, went to Gosforth High School in Newcastle, a state school, and Edinburgh University.
Leslie Evans, newly appointed as the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government, the most senior civil servant in Scotland, went to High Storrs school in Sheffield and Liverpool University.

That article was briefed by Sturgeon’s office and Nicola sees Lloyd, Evans and Mackinnon as performing key roles in driving her gender equality policies in Scotland. That is why she leaps to defend them. That is her here and now, and has become more real to her than the time before she was First Minister, campaigning for Independence with Alex. She is emotionally attached to Lloyd, Evans and Mackinnon on that basis, to the extent that she is prepared to defend the indefensible.

Nicola sees the criticism of the attack on Alex, an attack made under her MeToo inspired Former Ministers Procedure, as a slur on the integrity of the gender policies which Nicola sees as cementing her place in history. It is also a direct attack on the female team which she hand-picked to implement those policies. It is not irrelevant to the MeToo context that Alex Salmond has been described frequently as, solely in a political sense, being a father figure to Nicola, and perhaps is thus easily associated in her mind with the abusive patriarchy as characterised by the feminist movement. Despite the obvious fishiness of both the allegations against Alex and the way they were dredged up, they fit Nicola’s most valued agenda. In pursuing that agenda, Nicola has simply lost all sight of the notion of fairness to Alex Salmond.

It should be noted that after Lord Pentland’s ruling, Nicola rightly apologised to the complainants for the mishandling. She remarkably did not apologise to Alex Salmond, who was actually the person Lord Pentland had ruled her Government had treated unfairly. That was not an accidental omission.

If Alex Salmond goes ahead to sue the Scottish Government for damages, which I certainly hope that he does, the Scottish Government cannot oblige him to settle and will find it very difficult to stop both the documents to which I refer, and the key evidence on oath, from coming out in open court. I am very confident that anybody who now scoffs or rails at me will look very stupid when that happens.

In conclusion, a senior judge does not describe the Government’s proceedings as “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias” without extreme care. Those words carry full weight. That Nicola Sturgeon has simply sought to ignore them is astonishing.

UPDATE at 20.06: This article led to a number of people contacting me to offer more information, or in some cases correction, on various points, plus two lawyers who contacted me with legal advice. I have therefore made a number of relatively minor changes to detail including some dates, but they in no way alter the thrust of the narrative or the argument. If further information comes in, there may be more changes. I will let you know.

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*In a previous article I had written that Mackinnon started contact with the complainants in January 2018. It was in fact still earlier, November 2017.

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A Question of Loyalty

I was just talking to an old friend in the European Commission about Scottish Independence. He said within the Commission there would now be overwhelming support for it and for immediate Scottish membership of the EU. He then added “But please can you leave Dr Fox with the English?”.

He was joking, but it led me to think about the loyalties of Unionist politicians. I don’t doubt Dr Fox would stay with the English – there will be no power in prospect for Tories in Scotland.

When asked in an interview during the last Indyref where his loyalty would lie if Independence won, then Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael replied without hesitation that of course he was a Scot and he would be loyal to Scotland. Where, I wonder, would Fluffy Mundell’s loyalties lie? The border is a short hop for him. Colonel Ruthie Davison has always had her eyes on high office at Westminster, and I expect she would be quickly down the A1. As for Labour, I don’t suppose anyone in England especially wants Richard Leonard. To be fair, I suspect Gordon Brown is not going anywhere and would reconcile himself to being the Scot who, in his own mind, saved the World. Wouldn’t it be lovely if J K Rowling upped sticks and went to be closer to her beloved Tony Blair?

With Scotland in the EU and England outside, would Andrew Neil be allowed to “queue jump” and stay as a top Tory at the England and Wales Broadcasting Corporation? Or would he fall victim to a hostile environment? Surely the mighty Laura Kuenssberg would demand a larger field for her snide right wing jibes than her home country?

I offer the “which way would the unionists jump” game to those of you whose minds have been frazzled by the banal spectacle of the results of British hubris, as relayed to us from Westminster all week. The game works much better with a few drams of Caol Ila.

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Machiavellianism and Brexit

A Cabinet Office source tells me today No. 10 is considering agreeing a second referendum with three choices: No Deal Brexit, May’s Deal or No Brexit. It would be by alternative vote, ie you rate your preferences 1, 2. The thinking is that the first round might go No Deal 23, May’s Deal 37, No Brexit 40. The second round would then go May’s Deal 60, No Brexit 40.

They claim there is opinion poll evidence to support this. But I see a flaw. It is predicated on the current situation, where a lot of Remainers are prepared to support Brexit, to respect the referendum result. But surely a second referendum would release that psychological constraint and the overwhelming majority of Remainers would seize the opportunity to try and ditch Brexit?

The advantage of the ploy from May’s viewpoint is that it presents her “deal” as the only alternative to No Deal or No Brexit, and in an AV vote the compromise position is always boosted. What is more it keeps the numerous other options for deals outwith her red lines – eg EFTA, Single Market, Customs Union, EEA – all off the ballot paper. This limited choice referendum thus appeals to May as “out-maneuvering” the opposition parties. The idea is to sucker them in to talk on a second referendum, then produce this slanted one.

This has not been adopted as policy yet, but No.10 and the Cabinet Office are working on the practicalities of this option.

There will almost certainly be a vote on a second referendum amendment in the government motion debate now starting on 29 January. One very close adviser to Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting to him that he gives a free vote, in order to prevent the row that the convoluted Conference motion tried to put off by focusing on process not substance, but on which time is running out. The adviser’s take is that the Tories will whip against the “People’s Vote” and a Labour free vote will lead to the second referendum being defeated. He was not however aware of the possibility the Tories will push their version of a second referendum, and I was able to brief him on that.

Today I walked down to Tesco to get my milk and, as every day, I passed the huddle of homeless people who sleep in the close. It illustrated vividly how disconnected Westminster is from the very real problems of desperate poverty that exist in our society. Observing the UK in the last phases of decline of a once great Empire, with its entirely dysfunctional political system and its fractured society, I cannot shake the impression of how small and sordid it all is.

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Racism Poisons the Entire Brexit Debate

It appears sadly impossible not to comment on Brexit at the moment; the astonishing scale of the government defeat in Parliament yesterday and the appalling self-serving behaviour of politicians on all sides compels attention.

The first and most obvious point is this; had Theresa May any honour, she would simply resign after her major political objective was rebuffed so dramatically by the legislature. But honour appears to be entirely out of fashion, so I shall not refer to it again today.

Parliament now appears ready to vote that it has confidence in the government when, clearly, it does not. This is because MPs wish to keep their jobs and careers intact. So from hereon the UK proceeds under the lie that it has a government which has a majority in Westminster for its views.

Even more remarkably, Theresa May has no intention of seeking a proposal that could command a majority. She seeks to move forward with cross-party discussions which exclude the leadership of other parties. She also insists that such discussions must be limited by her infamous “red lines” – but within those constraints, there is no deal materially different to the deal Parliament has just rejected which will ever be available.

The truth of course is that May’s “red lines” were in fact motivated by the only consistent strand that can be traced through Theresa May’s political career – hatred of immigrants. If you are going to end freedom of movement, then you have to leave the single market. That is very plainly the rule on which the single market was predicated, and the EU have repeated that ad nauseam in all negotiations. You cannot “cherry pick” to end free movement and keep free market access.

All of May’s “red lines” can be traced to a single source. If you ask “If you end EU immigration, what are the necessary consequences?” you get May’s red lines. Their basis is racism.

Both the SNP and Labour parties had put forward ideas that were broadly compatible. The Labour Party wants customs union, effective single market participation, and retention of worker and environmental protections. The SNP suggested permanent customs union and EEA membership. With minor differences, both these approaches are broadly “Norway plus” and both would limit the effects on the economy and remove the need for a hard border with Ireland.

But there was one major difference. The SNP accepted that single market membership must entail freedom of movement, and boldly argued that EU immigration is a good thing. The Labour Party position is entirely dishonest and predicated on a pretence that you can have single market access without freedom of movement – a position which is a lie.

The Labour Party has a large number of voters frequently described as “white working class”. The phrase is continually deployed as an euphemism for “racist”, which is highly unfair to the very many white working class people who do not share those attitudes. The desire not to alienate what I prefer to call the “John Mann voter” causes many in the Labour Party to adopt this dishonesty about the immigration consequences of single market access.

But it is worse than that. Many at the heart of what I might call “Old Labour” still harbour the dark thoughts that led in my youth to support from many trade union members for the views of Enoch Powell – the idea that immigrants depress wages and damage the working class. Unfortunately both Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell, for both of whom I have much respect in general, still harbour this dinosaur opinion.

In July, Jeremy Corbyn said that immigration “would be a managed thing on the basis of the skills required… What there wouldn’t be is whole-scale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industries.”

Here Jeremy is putting forward a line on immigration “a managed thing on the basis of skills required” that is identical to the Tory line and plainly rules out free movement. Further he is promoting anti-immigrant myths. The economy is not a thing of fixed size with a limited number of jobs. Dynamic EU immigration has been entirely responsible for all growth in our economy this last decade; without it we would have been plunged into the deepest and still continuing recession. The cause of poverty is the obscene proportion of national wealth looted by the super wealthy, not the poor immigrant. The answer to the particular question Jeremy addressed is the establishment, or possibly post-Thatcher re-establishment, of strong legal protections for working conditions in the construction industry, to protect all workers there. The answer is not to attack Central European immigrants.

Until the Labour Party accepts the need to challenge anti-immigrant views head-on, it will continue to talk nonsense on Brexit.

For good measure, Nicola Sturgeon also played politics with a statement after last night’s vote which, remarkably, did not mention the word “Independence” at all. Sturgeon now appears entirely focused on keeping England and Wales inside the European Union against the will of the English and Welsh people, as opposed to having a clear and fixed aim of achieving Scottish Independence from this debacle.

[Update: Subsequently, at 5.32 am. Nicola corrected her position with the following tweet, presumably having absorbed party concerns overnight at her original key omission:

The criticism therefore falls, though it still worries me her first reaction was wrong.]

It seems to me the ultimate solution is plain. Scotland should become Independent and remain in the EU as its citizens overwhelmingly wish. England and Wales should leave the EU as its citizens wish (by a very clear majority if you take out Scotland and Northern Ireland). England and Wales should move to a Norway style relationship broadly as proposed by the Labour Party, with the racists told they cannot have everything they want. Northern Ireland should finally return to Ireland. Some bits of that will happen sooner than others – Scottish Independence in particular – but in a decade or so, I expect all that will have finally happened. If politicians were not so conniving and self-interested, we could get there a lot sooner.

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The Hague Comes of Age

I am delighted by the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court. As I explained at the time in a series of articles, Gbagbo was ousted as President of Ivory Coast by a corrupt election and an armed insurgency, both funded by Western oil interests, chiefly but not solely by Trafigura plc.

Gbagbo was guilty in western eyes of failing to do what left wing African leaders are supposed to do, allow himself to be quickly butchered and his supporters massacred. So Gbagbo ended up at the International Criminal Court as a war criminal, while Big Oil’s puppet, Alassane Ouattara, is now comfortably ensconced in the Presidential Palace of Ivory Coast, and getting very rich indeed.

So the acquittal of Gbagbo today – which comes as something of a shock – represents a very important coming of age for the Hague. I have always, as an internationalist, supported the International Criminal Court, but its failure to be pro-active in prosecuting Tony Blair on the Nuremburg aggressive war precedent, and its serial record of convicting only the Western powers’ designated enemies, made it very difficult to defend.

The media, insofar as they have noticed the Gbagbo acquittal, portray it as a failure and an embarrassment for the court, as though the role of a court is simply to declare guilty and bang up everyone before it. In fact this may be the occasion on which the ICC finally came of age and discovered a nodding acquaintance with the concept of justice.

The number of foreign correspondents employed by British newspapers has fallen by over 90% in 20 years. One purpose of this blog is to supply information on countries and situations which I know personally, to which the MSM simply do not pay attention. It is worth noting that this blog has been campaigning against Chinese persecution of the Uighurs for 12 years before it became the latest fashionable cause or pretext for neo-cons to pretend concern about. Indeed when I started writing about the Uighurs in 2005, I am willing to bet not one of the MSM so-called journalists who have recently churned out copy and paste articles on the subject, had ever heard of them. In a fortnight’s time I am heading for other areas where the FCO travel advice strongly advises British citizens not to venture.

Remember tonight, there is a world beyond the Brexit debate and the crass and sordid mess of Westminster politics.

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The Forgotten Referendum – Ireland 1998

The problem with making decisions by the blunt and heavy tool of referenda is now very apparent. One self evident difficulty is how to cope with contradictory results. Scotland had two referenda in two years. In the first the Scottish people voted narrowly to remain part of the United Kingdom, in the second they voted heavily to remain part of the European Union. The two results are now incompatible. So how did the referenda help to set the legitimate course of political action? They did not.

There is another incompatible referendum which has gone virtually unmentioned in the UK. Following the Good Friday agreement, Ireland had a referendum in 1998 to amend its constitution to allow it to subscribe to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Ireland amended its constitution to remove its unfettered claim to its entire historic territory, in favour of a contingent peaceful process. Mutual EU membership and no border control was absolutely intrinsic to that agreement and to what the Irish voted for in their referendum. The vote, incidentally, was by much the same margin as Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU. So in resiling from its EU accession due to its referendum, the UK is negating referendum votes in Scotland, in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. The UK cannot arrogantly claim its referendum is more important than Ireland’s. The famous “backstop” is to maintain at least the shadow of the arrangements on the basis of which Ireland voted in 1998.

The other reason referenda are not useful is they are insufficiently detailed. The Brexit referendum said nothing whatsoever about the UK’s continued relationship with the EU. It said nothing about the Customs Union, about EEA, or even about freedom of movement. The referendum was called by David Cameron to buy off party splits in the Tory Party, but failed spectacularly even on those sordid terms. as someone who wants the UK to fall apart, personally I am enjoying the chaos, but it was not the planned result by those behind the referendum.

I am probably a horrible elitist. I dislike direct democracy and am quite profoundly Burkean. I believe democracy should work through the people electing representatives they trust, to use their judgement and experience and adaptability to make the decisions of government. This is not a popular position given the appalling calibre of politicians currently. That is partly due to the UK’s antiquated electoral and governance systems; but something else is in play as it appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. It is to do with neoliberalism eating away at societal bonds and institutions, and requires a great deal more thought to delineate. But of one thing I am quite sure: referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government.

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Richard Dearlove Helped Blair Kill Millions. The Security Services are a Danger to Our State and Society

When Sir Richard Dearlove was Head of MI6, the Blairites adored him as he approved the lying Dossier on Iraqi WMD which led to wars, invasion, the death of millions and the destabilisation which continues to wreck the entire Middle East. Now, as he writes to Tory constituency chairman advocating the hardest of hard Brexits, had they any capacity for self-reflection the Blairites would probably be thinking it was after all not such a great move of Tony to appoint the hardest of hard right nutters to head our overseas intelligence service.

In my last post, I noted how evidence against me was actually manufactured when I opposed the policy of torture and extraordinary rendition. I have explained ad nauseam that, having been in a senior position in the FCO at the time, I know that Blair’s dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction was a tissue of deliberate lies, and not just an honest mistake; furthermore it is impossible to read the Chilcot report without coming to that conclusion.

The UK has security services which operate dishonestly and illegally. Interestingly, I cannot say that they are currently out of the control of the UK government; the evidence is rather they are willing to engage in every dirty and dishonest trick at the behest of corrupt politicians like Blair.

Dearlove regularly features in the media shilling for maximum Cold War. His letter yesterday on the dangers of intelligence and security co-operation with the EU, as undermining NATO and the UK/US/Five Eyes intelligence arrangements, is simply barking mad. There is no evidence of this whatsoever. He makes no attempt to describe the mechanism by which the dire consequences he predicts will follow. Amusingly enough, although those consequences are dire to Dearlove, to me they are extremely desirable. If I thought that May’s withdrawal agreement would undermine NATO and the CIA, I would be out on the streets campaigning for it.

But there is a very serious point. There is something very wrong indeed with the UK security services, which are most certainly not a force for freedom or justice. That MI6 can be headed by as extreme a figure as Dearlove, underlines the threat that the security services pose to any progressive movement in politics.

If Scotland becomes independent, it must not mirror the repressive UK security services. Furthermore it must be very chary indeed of employing anybody currently working for the UK security services. If Jeremy Corbyn comes to power in Westminster, he will never achieve any of his objectives in restoring a basic level of social justice and equality to society in England and Wales, without revolutionary change in major institutions including the security services.

My own view on Brexit is that the best deal for England and Wales would be EEA and customs union, essentially the Norway option. It seems that the Labour leadership have essentially got that right, but are making a complete pig’s ear of articulating it, presumably because of their desire not to antagonise their anti-immigrant voters.

Scotland demonstrably has a strong and strengthening pro-EU majority and this is the logical time for Scotland to move to Independence, with the assurance of strong international support. I trust the Scottish government is finally going to move decisively in that direction inside the next month.

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The UK Government Manufacture of False Sexual Allegations

I want to give you a concrete example of how the UK government deliberately sets out to manufacture false sexual allegations against people it considers a threat. I do so to educate those who view this concept as an unthinkable “conspiracy theory”. I write of a case of which I have expert knowledge; it is my own case.

I became an “enemy of the state” when, as British Ambassador, I protested against UK and US complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition in Uzbekistan. As detailed in Murder in Samarkand, I very quickly found myself suspended and subject to civil service investigation of disciplinary allegations against me, the worst of which was that I extorted sex from visa applicants. Blair’s No. 10 quickly leaked this allegation against me to the Daily Mail.

I was in a state of complete shock. I had no idea at all what could have led to such allegations. The Kafkaesque nightmare deepened when I was presented with the evidence against me.

The case was of a young woman named Albina Safarova. I was shown her visa application documents by the investigating officer. These included her passport photo, and she was a strikingly beautiful young woman. On the back of her visa application the Visa Officer had written “HMA (Her Majesty’s Ambassador, i.e. me) authorises issue”. The investigation had obtained a statement from the Visa Officer, in which she stated that she had issued the Visa after being informed by two British diplomats that Ms Safarova was a friend of mine. To complete the evidence, the original application was supported by a letter from Ms Safarova’s sponsor, a Mr Dermot Hassett, who stated in the application that the circumstances of the application were known to the British Ambassador, Mr Craig Murray.

All of which seems firm and damning evidence of, at the least, unwarranted interference in visa issues.

Except for this. Not only had I never had any form of sexual encounter with Ms Albina Safarova, I had never met her or even heard of her. The same was true of Mr Dermot Hassett. Not only were they not my friends, I had no idea they existed.

After I left the FCO, I gave the papers to a veteran investigative reporter, Bob Graham, who contacted Dermot Hassett. Graham told me that Hassett explained that a British diplomat – one of the two who had told the Visa Officer Ms Safarova was my friend – had instructed him to write my name into the visa application, with the assurance that the visa would be granted.

So the British government had put substantial effort into the preparation of fake documents connecting me to Ms Safarova and Mr Hassett and this visa application. Yet the whole thing was entirely fake. Those British diplomats had lied, and convinced Mr Hassett and the Visa Officer to produce “independent” documents corroborating those lies.

Interestingly, they never produced any allegation from Ms Safarova that a sexual relationship was involved. In the absence of this and of any evidence that I had ever met Safarova, and in view of the fact the Visa Officer’s evidence crucially stated it was other British diplomats, not me, who told her Safarova was my friend, I was acquitted. No other incident was ever alleged. But mud sticks, and the smear was used to discredit my evidence on torture and extraordinary rendition, and has been so used ever since.

Alex Salmond is far more of a threat to the British establishment than I ever was. So is Julian Assange and so is Tommy Sheridan. Anybody who looks at any of these examples, and does not understand that the state will actually fabricate allegations and fabricate evidence to back them, is a fool.

I know. It happened to me.

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The Salmond Stitch-Up – the Incredible Facts, and why Mackinnon and Evans Must Be Sacked

Judith Mackinnon joined the Scottish government in 2017. She was slotted into the highly remunerated non-job of Head of People Advice. That really is her title. I saw it in the Record and did not believe it, but just phoned the Scottish Government and they confirmed it. Judith Mackinnon is Head of People Advice at the Scottish Government. She was previously Head of Human Resource Governance at Police Scotland. A senior policeman tells me that appeared in practice to mean professional feminist.

As might be expected from somebody with such pointless job titles, Mackinnon writes gobbledegook rather than English. Here is an extract from her Police Scotland submission to the consultation on the Scottish Government bill on gender equality on boards.

I confess I got no further than answer 1), my bullshit meter having exploded. I felt very sorry for Jackie McKelvie.

It is vital to note that, in her peculiar non-job at the Scottish Government, Mackinnon had no normal professional contact with the alleged “complainants” against Alex Salmond. It is still more vital to note that the “complainants” did not approach Mackinnon. In January 2018, shortly after starting at the Scottish Government, Mackinnon sought them out and – as it was carefully put in court today (tremendous twitter stream report here), spoke to them in a manner “bordering on encouragement to proceed with formal complaints” against Alex Salmond. It appears this was a process, not just one meeting. Again in the language used in court today, there was a “significant amount of direct personal contact” between Mackinnon and the complainants.

At this stage the complaints were brought to the attention of Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary – assuming she was not the one who instigated Mackinnon to act originally. Incredibly, Evans then appoints Mackinnon as the formal investigating officer for the case.

Even more incredibly, Mackinnon and Evans then together work on a new Civil Service Code which specifically makes the retrospective actioning of these complaints possible.

So Mackinnon instigated the complaints, investigated the complaints and drafted the code changes which made the complaints actionable.

Judith Mackinnon has been a human resources professional operating for over 25 years. It is impossible that Mackinnon did not realise that this method of pursuing a stitch up is absolutely illegitimate, as was today conceded in court. It is equally impossible that the Head of the Civil Service, Leslie Evans, did not realise these measures were completely illegitimate.

The actions of these civil servants are not just reckless, they are a deliberate stitch-up of an individual amounting to the crime of misconduct in public office. It is most certainly a sacking offence and it is Evans and Mackinnon who should be the subject of police investigation. Apart from their deliberate and cold malice towards Salmond, they have cost the taxpayer £350,000 wasted on this case.

Leslie Evans issued a statement today which is breathtaking in these circumstances in its impudence and its tendentiousness. She appears to try to say that she did not know until last month of Mackinnon’s role in instigating the complaints.

After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point – contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018.

The full picture only became evident in December 2018 as a result of the work being undertaken to produce relevant documents in advance of the hearing.

This amounts to an incredible accusation against Mackinnon by Evans. To save her own skin, Evans appears to be alleging that at the time of Mackinnon’s appointment as investigating officer, Mackinnon did not reveal to Evans her role in initiating the “complaints”; and presumably also left that out of the investigative reports, if Evans did not find out until December.

However as a former member of the senior civil service myself, I can tell you that the truly disgusting Leslie Evans is here attempting to give that impression by weasel drafting. She is saying that “the full picture” only became clear in December. In fact, Evans already knew a great deal more than she is here attempting to portray. Perhaps she didn’t know whether Mackinnon and the complainants drank tea or coffee together, hence not the “full picture”.

There is a still more important and extraordinary misrepresentation in Evans’ statement, She claims:

All the other grounds of Mr Salmond’s challenge have been dismissed

I cannot understand this at all. There has been no judgement issued in the case. The Scottish Government caved in once it was ordered to reveal the incriminating emails and minutes that told the above story. The Scottish Government caved in and settled out of court; therefore the case was dismissed by the judge. It is totally false of Evans to claim that this amounts to Salmond’s other claims being “dismissed” in the sense she intends to convey, and indeed is the opposite of what the Scottish Government’s own QC specifically stated in court. He said that the Government disagreed with Salmond on the other points but that this was “now academic”.

The misrepresentations in Leslie Evans’ statement are simply appalling in a civil servant. She has to go.

All documents in this case should now be released. It is a matter of essential public interest, relating to a politically motivated attempt to impact on the bid for Independence of the entire Scottish nation. One thing that those documents will make clear is whether or not the First Minister’s office was as entirely insulated from events as is claimed.

Nicola Sturgeon must now move to demand the resignation of both Evans and Mackinnon. Both fully deserve to lose their jobs. If Sturgeon moves to protect them, she will attract suspicion that she is motivated by keeping them silent about the extent of her own involvement in the sorry process. To avoid this rumour she has to act swiftly and decisively and invite them to resign tomorrow morning.

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