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Trump in the Middle East 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Broederbond Election – A Game You Can Play 37

Have you spotted Theresa May with a coloured person during this election? She has been sticking to places where she is surrounded by Tory councillors or by employees in front of their bosses or once, memorably, tenants in front of their landlord. The questions to her are pre-vetted but even then she normally answers with complete irrelevance – she replies “Brexit” as surely as Paul Nuttal replies “immigration”. Her audiences have been tiny but the media never pan out. They also never point out that her audiences are white.

Here is an entirely undoctored google image search result for “Theresa May campaigning”.

You can do the search yourself and see the pictures close-up. There is a Sikh man in the crowd on the second photo and another Asian man in the fourth. But on a rough headcount, the BAME percentage turning up in this random selection of May campaigning photos is 2%. Now if you do the same search for “Jeremy Corbyn” campaigning you get a very different picture. One photo of him in Southall on 18 May contained more BAME people than a full page of May thumbnails. But perhaps still more interesting is a comparison of the same search for David Cameron, which shows a very similar result to Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, one shot of Cameron, Goldsmith and Johnson campaigning together also contains more BAME people than a whole page of May thumbnails. I cannot reproduce those two photos for you as they are Getty Images copyright protected, but they come up if you do the search.

Now here is the game you can play. Have a drink every time you see Theresa May interact with a coloured person during this election. I think your liver is safe.

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There Are No Rape Charges Against Julian Assange in Sweden. There Are Espionage Charges Against Julian Assange in the USA. 257

UPDATE GREAT NEWS: Swedish prosecutors are about to announce the dropping of the investigation into Julian Assange on sexual offence allegations. There never were any charges and the allegations were always nonsense, as detailed in the below article I wrote a month ago:

A few months ago I asked Julian whether he expected that Donald Trump would end the case against him in the United States. WikiLeaks had after all published the DNC and Podesta emails, which revealed the corruption at the heart of the Clinton campaign and the way the Democratic primaries had been rigged against Bernie Sanders.

Julian replied that no, he expected the opposite to be true. Trump would feel the need to be openly active against Assange to show that there had been no relationship between him and WikiLeaks. Julian was of course right, and Trump’s Attorney-General has announced that the United States wants to extradite Assange on charges of espionage related to the Snowden revelations of mass illegal government surveillance.

It is worth noting that this is not really new. The Obama administration was sitting on sealed indictments against Assange for years. Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other President in history. Having come to power promising to take action against senior CIA figures for waterboarding, the only person his Administration prosecuted – and jailed – over it was John Kiriakou for blowing the whistle on waterboarding.

Obama’s policy of not confirming or denying the charges against Assange in the States, enabled the media propagandists to pour scorn on Assange’s repeated insistence he was in the Ecuadorean Embassy to avoid extradition not to Sweden, but to the USA. That is now undeniable.

There are no rape charges against Assange in Sweden. There are espionage charges against Assange in the USA.

The evidence in the Swedish Assange allegations was originally reviewed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm who declared there was no case to answer. It was then taken up – as allowed in the Swedish system – by a second prosecutor, Marianne NY, who has a campaigning third wave feminist agenda.

The European Arrest Warrant against Assange was signed not by any court, but by Marianne Ny. It was not on the basis that he was charged with any offence, but that he was wanted for questioning by the prosecutor. This can never happen again – UK law was subsequently changed so only a court, not a prosecutor, must sign the warrant.

Questioning is now complete. Assange has still not been charged. And yet his legal status according to the UK government is still that he is pending extradition for questioning – even though the questioning finished in the Ecuador Embassy last November.

The sexual allegations against Assange in Sweden have always been risible when considered in detail. The physical evidence against Assange is faked. The condom he allegedly wore and furtively ripped during intercourse with Anna Ardin contains none of his DNA – a physical impossibility had he worn it.

Assange’s DNA is present in another condom provided by Sofia Wilen, but there is no dispute the pair had consensual sex with that condom. What is alleged is that after drowsing off post-coitus, Assange initiated sex a second time while Wilen was still, in her own words “half asleep”, so she was not able to give fully informed consent. Assange adamantly denies this.

The women were questioned six years ago, as was Assange. All the physical evidence was collected and assessed. For five years Assange has been proclaiming his willingness to be questioned by Swedish authorities inside the Ecuadorean Embassy. Marianne Ny did nothing. The fact that there was no viable case against Assange and no genuine investigation in progress, was a determining factor in the decision of the extremely eminent international jurists of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, that Assange is being arbitrarily detained and should be freed. The UK and Swedish governments accepted the UN process and fully participated in it, and then appealed and lost again, but still refuse to accept the result. Neither the UK nor Sweden has ever failed to support any other decision of the UN Working Group.

Eventually Marianne Ny was forced by legal action by Assange to assure the Swedish Supreme Court she would move the investigation forward. Finally last November a Swedish prosecutor and Swedish policeman questioned Assange, over two days, in the Ecuadorean Embassy. Remember this was a follow up to his initial interview in Sweden six years ago. Julian also at the questioning in November gave an extremely comprehensive written statement.

The questioning was in November. It is now nearly May. The police and prosecutor had had six years to assess and analyse all the other evidence – including the testimony of the women and their text messages, which are crucial to the case. The follow up Assange questioning was the last thing Marianne Ny had to drag it out.

Yet there are still no charges. There are still no charges. Assange’s status is still that he is wanted for questioning, even though the questioning is all done. The Swedish establishment, an extremely tight knit and closed apparatus, appears unwilling to bite the bullet of admitting the whole has been nonsense. The tactic appears to be to sit it out another couple of years until the statute of limitations kicks in, and thus avoid admitting there was never a case.

You would have to be profoundly deaf not to hear the tramp of authoritarian boots currently marching all over the body politic of western societies. With racism, intolerance and the security state in the ascendant, now we need whistleblowers (and their publishers) more than ever. Those on the left who were distracted by the CIA’s “rape” dog whistle need to rediscover their critical faculties and get behind WikiLeaks.

There are no rape charges against Julian Assange in Sweden. There are espionage charges against Julian Assange in the USA.

The lies against Assange and WikiLeaks are no longer tenable.

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Some Real Votes Here 19

Much has changed in the last week with the Labour and Tory manifesto launches. Today there was a council by-election in Enfield Lock ward of Enfield North constituency. This is important because Enfield North was one of the few Labour gains in 2015 and the Tories only need a swing of 1.2% to get it back. It is the Tories’ 12th most likely gain, and one they should take easily if they are going to get the big majority predicted.

Here was the result:

It is worth noting the unusually high turnout: 32%. This is almost certainly explained by the proximity to the general election, and for the same reason voters are likely to have concentrated on national rather than local factors.

The net swing from Labour to Tory was only 0.3%. Labour would hold Enfield North on that swing. Indeed, UK-wide the Tories would only gain Chester and Ealing Central on a 0.3% swing.

Of course I do not pretend that you can really extrapolate from a single London ward across the whole country. But over 4,000 people cast real votes in that by-election compared to the 1,100 sample of the average opinion poll. It is undeniably true that the Conservatives would have expected to do a good deal better in Enfield Lock today. I do not think we are getting a true picture of what is happening in the country from the polls and the media. There is life in this election yet.

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The Tory Manifesto Is Priceless 109

The most extraordinary thing about the Tory manifesto is that you can read pages and pages of it and not come upon a monetary value put on anything. Figures are extremely few and far between indeed, and where there is a cost placed on something there is normally no indication given at all of where the money is coming from.

You have to get to page 14 before you come across a single figure at all. Then it tells you that by 2020 they will increase the personal tax allowance to £12,500 and increase the higher rate threshold to £50,000. But it places no value at all on the next cost of this tax cut, or how it can be afforded.

You have to go through six more pages of waffle before you get the next figure at page 20, a National Productivity Fund of £23 billion. Again, no indication is given of the source of this funding, perhaps because it is very much an old recycled announcement.

Perhaps the most remarkable instance of lack of clarity on funding is the promise of £8 billion extra for the NHS. Again no indication at all is given of where this money is coming from. The only indication of an extra funding source is a levy of £450 per head on overseas students for use of the NHS. That will raise only about £50 million and is just a chance for an attack on a group May particularly hates – and a bone to the racists.

It is impossible not to contrast the complete absence of prices on 95% of the proposals in the manifesto, and the complete lack of explanation of the source of funds on almost all the few items that are costed, with the huge media onslaught on the fiscal detail of the opposition parties’ manifestoes. A completely different standard is being applied to the Tories.

The BBC as usual wheeled out the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the “independent” body representing extreme neo-liberalism. The IFS has been lyrical for hours these last few days giving instant judgements on why the Labour manifesto had holes in it, repeating continually the corporate propaganda that if you increase taxes on the super-rich, they will pay less. But when invited by the BBC to comment on the finances of the Tory manifesto, the IFS merely replied that they would be presenting an analysis of all the manifestoes next Tuesday.

The Tory manifesto is literally priceless – it puts no price on anything. But we all know it will carry a disastrous cost for our public services and for the most vulnerable in our society,

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An Unworthy Thought 91

Pensioners alone were responsible for blocking Scottish Independence in 2014, and pensioners were the only group that supported Brexit by any substantial majority. I know there are exceptions, but broadly it is inarguably true that pensioners caused Brexit and blocked Indy. So I am struggling not to relish the schadenfreude at the Tory manifesto shafting pensioners. I do realise this is an unworthy thought; it is a temptation against which I am struggling, manfully. The truth is, of course, that many pensioners are among the most vulnerable in our society, and that their undoubted tendency as a group to harbour outdated and unpleasant views out of kilter with the rest of society, is in part due to a tendency by wider society to exclude pensioners.

The Tories calculate that the pensioners will loyally vote Tory anyway. They may be right. Pensioners are also the group most susceptible to dog whistle racism, and the anti-immigration nonsense the Tories are proposing will play well with pensioners. The largest payer of penal charges on employers who hire foreign workers will be the NHS, so it is difficult to see how that helps. Employers in general prefer to employ local workers where they can. Security of employment status, an employee with established social support, absence of language and communications difficulties. There are plenty of reasons for employers to prefer local employees. They employ others only when there is good reason to do so; attempting to penalise that is daft. It does not appear that the manifesto is going to contain any other practical proposals for reducing immigration, just the aspiration; which is probably a lie.

I worry about reintroducing the stigma of means-testing to free school meals and to winter fuel payments for pensioners. At my school, we knew who got free school meals in our class, and children can be cruel. My parents and my grandparents would never, for reasons of pride, apply for any benefit other than those like the basic pension which came automatically. I suspect they are not alone. There is no reason in logic to means test the winter fuel allowance and not means test the basic state pension, of which it was a de facto part.

Sorry for such a stream of consciousness blog entry – election campaigns don’t always lend themselves to properly gestated thought.

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Tories Rely on BBC Lackeys 60

Astonishingly the Tories have today banned Murdoch’s Sky News from interviewing senior ministers, as they think Sky asks too many difficult questions. For now they are only allowing senior ministers to be interviewed by the reliable Tory house propagandists Kuenssberg, Robinson, Smith and their colleagues at the BBC. The stark contrast between the level of critical scrutiny the Tory manifesto is getting from the BBC, compared to their scathing sarcasm about opposition proposals, shows Tory trust in the BBC is well placed.

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May Intends to Appoint Liam Fox as Chancellor 87

A week ago an old Whitehall colleague told me that Treasury mandarins expect to be briefing Liam Fox as the new Chancellor should the Tories be re-elected – and they were not much looking forward to the experience. I did not pay much attention until today’s May/Hammond press conference, where it became evident that Hammond’s coat is on the shoogliest of pegs.

Hammond started the day being ripped to shreds by John Humphreys on the Today programme and getting the cost of HS2 radically wrong. But that hardly matters, as it is only when this happens to opposition figures that the mainstream media highlights and constant replays it.

A much more telling incident happened shortly thereafter when, standing alongside Hammond, May was three times asked directly if Hammond would continue as Chancellor, and she refused to back him, only at the third time of asking giving the most half hearted endorsement. I then realised the information I had been given was good.

Strangely, it is only the right wing media that has noted Fox’s continuing relationship with Adam Werritty. It was the Spectator which published that Werritty joined Fox on the Commons Terrace for a champagne spree to celebrate the disgraced ex-minister’s return to office. I was told by a SNP MP who witnessed it and used the phrase “brass neck”. But only the Spectator reported it, and only the Times has said that the two remain close. They reported last year that Werritty is living in Dolphin Square (I know, let’s not go there).

I have an irresistible image of what life is going to be like inside the Treasury, should Fox and Werritty have the run of it.

Of course Werritty opened a private health company when Fox was Health Secretary and a defence consultancy business when Fox was Minister of Defence. If Fox becomes Chancellor, I presume he gets to open a bank!

But on a more serious note, the prospect of Fox becoming Chancellor is truly alarming. The hard right links he forged through the now defunct Atlantic Bridge to the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation give him direct access into the heart of the Trump administration, and align him with the nastiest millionaires and hedge fund managers, with the funders of climate change denial and with those who wish to abolish literally all workers’ rights and consumer protections. This article by George Monbiot is rather dense, but it is essential reading. And terrifying.

Fox appears to be confined in a locked cupboard for the duration of the election campaign. Doubtless he is waiting, like a child on Christmas Eve, to come bursting out and claim his prize once it is over.

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Tories Play the Race Card – up their Sleeve 104

Even our servile mainstream media might blench at this Enoch Powell style racist message. That is why the Tories are not deploying it openly, but in highly targeted Facebook adverts
.

If you have received this on Facebook, you have been identified by sophisticated billionaire funded analytics.

The Conservatives have decided that you are old or poor or uneducated, or a combination of some of these, and thus particularly likely to respond to racism.

I urge you to use Facebook’s reaction buttons to let them know they are wrong.

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Corbyn Needs to Find His Inner Gladstone 198

I have never voted Labour, but were I in England I would vote for Corbyn’s Labour. There is so much that is very good in Labour’s manifesto, but they had me at renationalisation of the railways. Abolition of university tuition fees is also very near to my heart.

The key point is this. I strongly suspect that 90% of other SNP voters, were they in England, would vote for Corbyn’s Labour too. Scottish Labour is a very different thing to Corbyn’s Labour, and the longstanding mutual hatred of the SNP and central elements of Scottish Labour has real causes. The ease with which Scottish Labour voters are transferring direct to Tory, and the truly shameful Tory/Labour coalitions being cooked up now in town halls all round Scotland, show that a hard core of Scottish Labour has nothing to do with Corbyn’s Labour. It is rather a toxic brew of Blairism, institutional corruption and the Orange Order. Amazingly it manages to be still less attractive than that sounds.

There were once many thousand of genuine and decent people in Scottish Labour. Those people now constitute a very large proportion of the SNP. There are very few decent people in Scottish Labour left.

The truth is that the SNP and Corbyn believe in a very similar brand of Progressivism. The Scots simply wish to pursue it in their own country. Given Corbyn’s support for Irish unification and anti-colonial movements all round the world, his opposition to Scottish Independence is unnatural, and his initial welcome for a second referendum reflected his own instinct.

In 1886, Gladstone became convinced of both the justice and political expediency of Irish Home Rule. He decided to adopt it and thus quite deliberately split the Liberal Party. This was a massive split – those who left included the greatest grandees, the Dukes of Westminster, Devonshire, Bedford and Argyll, plus some of the protestant chapel faction like Joseph Chamberlain and John Bright. Those departing Liberal Unionists functioned as a separate political party, in effective coalition with the Tories, until eventually merging into the Conservative and Unionist party.

This loss of Dukes and their acolytes paved the way for the Liberal Party to become much more radical, leading to the Liberal governments of 1906-15 which introduced reforms including national insurance, abolition of the workhouse, old age pensions and free school meals. I would argue that, along with Attlee’s government, it was the greatest reforming government in British history. All done with the essential support of the Irish nationalists.

Corbyn should do the same. He should stop fighting Scottish Independence and embrace it. He should join forces with those who support the same kind of domestic reform and foreign policy he embraces. The loss of Alistair Darling, Kezia Dugdale, John McTernan and John Mann to Labour would be as nothing compared to the losses Gladstone was prepared to accept in embracing Irish nationalism.

The Liberal Unionists are only remembered today when The Importance of Being Earnest is performed. I have changed “Liberal Unionist” to “Blairite” in this excerpt to show how precisely the scenario fits with today’s situation:

Lady Bracknell (Sternly): What are your politics?
Jack: Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Blairite.
Lady Bracknell: Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening at any rate.

By throwing over the Scottish Labour dinosaurs and any Blairite shills who wish to go with them, Corbyn can remake the politics of the United Kingdom. And the SNP, just as the Irish Nationalists did in 1906, can help Corbyn to make the permanent transformational changes to the UK, even as they go through the process of leaving it. A future Labour/SNP administration could enact a manifesto as radical as the one that Labour have just unveiled, as the parting gift of the Scots to the UK. After this election, this must be the way forward for Corbyn. As May hits the car crash of Brexit, if May wins on 8 June I do not think her administration will last five years, and I am quite certain she, or the Tories, will not win the ensuing election.

There are other valid comparisons between Corbyn and Gladstone, particularly in foreign policy with regard to Gladstone’s principled and vigorous opposition to the Second Anglo-Afghan war. Gladstone as leader of the opposition argued directly that Afghans fighting invading British troops were justified in doing so: “We have destroyed their homes and driven their wives and children into the snows of winter”. Corbyn has a similar courage in taking on today’s media-driven jingoism and militarism.

Does Corbyn have similar courage in forcing the realignment that can make sense of UK politics, as Scotland leaves as Ireland once did? Can Jeremy embrace Scottish Independence, as I have no doubt is his natural instinct? That will be the measure of whether he makes a real mark on the future, or becomes a brief flash of radical failure.

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Blairites Accuse Dastardly Corbyn of Trying to Get People to Vote Labour 181

You might think that the Blairite Labour MPs would stop anonymously briefing and leaking against Corbyn, at least for the duration of the general election campaign. You would, however, be very wrong. The Blairites are so consumed by hatred, and so incensed that anybody should offer a political alternative to neo-liberalism, that they simply cannot stop. As ever, the right wing propagandists at the BBC are only too delighted to provide a conduit for their rage-fuelled accusations.

This, however, is stunning. The BBC Newsnight “policy editor” has just been tipped off, by two of the usual anonymous Blairite MPs, that Corbyn has stooped so low as actually to ask people to vote Labour, as part of his vile plot to seize power. I am not making this up. Chris Cook of Newsnight has actually just published this:

Two Labour MPs suggested to me he is trying to maximise the popular Labour vote to help bolster his argument for staying on in the event of a defeat.

How very dare he? Corbyn is trying to maximise the popular Labour vote? Surely that must be illegal or something?

The fact that Blairites now brief against Corbyn that he has the temerity to increase the Labour vote, after they shrunk it for two decades, is stunning evidence of how pointless and embittered the Blairites now are.

Most recent opinion polls show that Labour are already regularly above the 30.4% Ed Miliband’s Labour obtained at the last election, and on an upward trend. Which does not mean they are going to win, by any means. But it is very likely Corbyn will indeed increase the Labour vote, which is a rather awkward fact for the BBC and other MSM narrative.

The Tories will probably get their Pyrrhic victory in England and Wales on June 8th, but the harsh reality of Brexit is going to send their popularity plummeting with extraordinary speed. I have no personal doubt that this will lead to Scottish Independence becoming a fact within the next three years. I also hope that Jeremy Corbyn stays on to complete the task of purging Blairite influence and giving the people of England and Wales the chance of a political alternative that respects human decency.

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Open Letter to President Trump 63

I am honoured to be one of the 101 initial signatories of the below open letter to President Trump demanding the end of the persecution of Julian Assange and Wikileaks for its essential publishing and journalistic work. Other signatories include Noam Chomsky, Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, Ken Loach, Mairead Maguire, Oliver Stone, Patti Smith, Slavoj Zizek and Yanis Varoufakis, as well as all the leading lights of the whistleblower community.

Dear President Trump,
We are journalists, activists and citizens from the United States and around the world who care about press freedom and are writing to you in response to the latest threat of prosecution against WikiLeaks for its journalistic work. We ask you to immediately close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and drop any charges against Julian Assange and other Wikileaks staff members which the Department of Justice is planning.
This threat to WikiLeaks escalates a long-running war of attrition against the great virtue of the United States — free speech. The Obama Administration prosecuted more whistleblowers than all presidents combined and opened a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks that had no precedent. It now appears the US is preparing to take the next step — prosecuting publishers who provide the “currency” of free speech, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson. It is reported that charges, including conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act are being considered against members of WikiLeaks, and that charging WikiLeaks Editor, Julian Assange, is now a priority of the Department of Justice.
A threat to WikiLeaks’ work — which is publishing information protected under the First Amendment — is a threat to all free journalism. If the DOJ is able to convict a publisher for its journalistic work, all free journalism can be criminalised.
We call on you as President of the United States to close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and drop any charges planned against any member of WikiLeaks. It was a free and robust press that provided you with a platform on which to run for president. Defending a truly free press requires freedom from fear and favour and the support of journalists and citizens everywhere; for the kind of threat now facing WikiLeaks — and all publishers and journalists — is a step into the darkness.

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Giving Up on Honesty 170

I enjoyed, as much as anybody, Emily Thornberry’s ambush of Michael Fallon over his past cultivation of Assad. It is notable that the media themselves have interviewed Fallon continually during this election – he has been put out as May’s deflector shield – and no member of the media has ever mentioned it to him. Contrast that with the media’s treatment of Labour and SNP politicians.

I remember back further into Fallon’s past. 32 years ago, when I was the young occupant of the South Africa (Political) desk in the FCO, Fallon was a positive enthusiast for apartheid. Together with fellow St Andrews extreme Tory ideologue Michael Forsyth, Fallon was among those stiffening Thatcher in opposing all international sanctions against the apartheid regime, and opposing all British government interventions in individual cases of human rights abuse. I recall him arguing that apartheid South Africa had the “rule of law” and we should not interfere in its internal affairs. I recall him calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist.

Yet I do not recall any journalist bringing up Fallon’s past as a supporter of apartheid when he continually refers to Jeremy Corbyn’s association with Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness as support for terrorism.

There are regulations in an election governing the broadcast media in giving equal time to political parties. But what they do within that time is not at all equal. On Marr, Fallon stated that a 1 billion dollar increased defence spending commitment would be met by “economic growth”. Marr let this go. Contrast this to the media ridiculing every single Labour spending proposal, routinely, as uncosted and “magic money”. It then became completely ludicrous when Fallon claimed a deficit of over 7 billion pounds in capital spending commitments would be met by “efficiency savings”. Marr should be congratulated on raising the issue in the first place, but there is no doubt that Fallon’s pathetic and risible retort would have been seized on and worried to death had it come from a Labour politician.

Just imagine Labour saying they were giving 7 billion dollars worth of equipment to the NHS to be met from “efficiency savings”. The media howl would be ear-piercing. Nick Ferrari would snap for hours and Andrew Neill would turn the sarcasm dial up to 11. But with Fallon, they just let the totally crazed claim slip. Obvious retorts like “if there are 7 billion pounds worth of efficiency savings in the defence budget, why haven’t you made them already?” were not deployed. Fallon went unchallenged.

Contrast this to Marr’s treatment of Nicola Sturgeon immediately afterwards. Her appearance on Marr this morning was a major part of the SNP leader’s allocated “fair time” by the BBC. Yet Marr chose to spend 90% of that allocated time on one single issue – school education tables – on which she is perceived to be weak. Sturgeon dealt with this very sensibly by saying that there is a problem with slipping basic numeracy and literacy, since the introduction of an ambitious new curriculum. This mistake had been acknowledged and was now being urgently addressed.

But Marr refused to move on. He asked question after question on this single point, and all his questions consisted of figures designed to prove that the problem existed, when Sturgeon had already said it existed.

What Marr was doing was simply adapting the favourite Tory attack on Sturgeon and refusing to discuss anything else, forcing Sturgeon to “admit” again and again that this problem existed, and not allowing her to talk about anything else in her allocated time. It was the starkest contrast to his willingness to let Fallon move on instantly from his ridiculous “efficiency savings” contention.

I could spend the next month blogging non-stop about instances of media bias, but I will just touch on one more because it is so startling. The Guardian has an “in-depth” account of the Tories winning a council seat in Ward 19 of Glasgow City Council. Incredibly, nowhere in the entire article do they mention that the election is under Single Transferrable Vote and the Tory got elected fourth in a four member constituency, and on the 10th transfer.

In fact I find it impossible to avoid the conclusion that the article has been deliberately written in order to create the false, indeed lying, impression that the Tories won this seat in a first past the post election. We have seen so much propaganda, across the entire media, of the “Tory surge in Scotland” that I suppose we are becoming used to it. But the fact remains that the 25% the Tories gained across Scotland at the local council election is the best they might achieve on 8 June, and is significantly below what Corbyn is regularly polling UK-wide. The media storm of “Tories take Scotland” propaganda, in the face of all fact, is unrelenting and deliberately designed to push and consolidate the Unionist vote.

Long term, it remains a happy fact that by pitching political choice in Scotland starkly between Toryism and Independence, there can only be one winner.

I have given up on expecting any honesty from the media. In future, I shall only blog on this subject when pleasantly surprised by an example of fairness or ethical behaviour in the media. I do not expect to do this often.

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That NHS Ransomware Attack 277

A few important points not featuring in the wall to wall media coverage

This is US government security service technology, developed by the NSA. Edward Snowden has confirmed this and nobody is denying it. You might think that would be a prominent part of the story, but strangely it isn’t.

The arms race between major powers to develop cyber warfare and cyber surveillance capacity is a massive threat to the security of the internet. It is the very governments who most like to claim they need to intervene to protect us, who are in fact creating the dangers they cite. This is NSA software; WikiLeaks “Vault 7” leak has revealed the similar massive effort at the CIA in developing destructive software.

That is not to say the NSA or US government is behind this worldwide attack. But it is to say that western governments are spending billions of pounds on developing malware, which they cannot themselves keep safe. This should be viewed in the same light as chemical weapons programmes. Urgent international action to outlaw weaponised malware development should be a priority for the international community, as the danger to increasingly IT dependent services is extreme. The United States is the biggest aggressor and the biggest danger.

Theresa May as Home Secretary was responsible for UK cyber defences for seven years. So the Tory efforts to blame everybody else today are misplaced. The buck stops with May.

Underfunded NHS Trusts have privatised IT management and outsourced the control and security of their computer systems to contractors, as part of the general rip-up of the NHS to provide private profit. These companies are more interested in maximising profits than safeguarding against contingent attacks. Very few NHS Trusts now employ their own NHS team of dedicated computer specialists maintaining and caring for their systems, including their defences.

This process has been accelerated under the Tories, but it must not be forgotten it was started by New Labour under Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. New Labour’s 2002 policy document “Developing 21st Century IT Support for the NHS” concluded that Option 2 was the way forward: “Selectively outsource major components of the NHS IT programme”. That was New Labour. The Tories have accelerated and extended it, and chronically underfunded the NHS. That is why so little money has gone into maintaining NHS IT systems, and what little has gone in has had little effect.

Corporate profits have been great though. Remember that extraordinary numbers of MPs have financial links to private healthcare firms. If the Tories win a landslide, doubtless the numbers of MPs personally profiting from NHS privatisation will increase still further.

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BBC Hits New Low 93

The promotion of independent thinking, and of scepticism about what “news” you are told, is the primary purpose of this blog. So I cannot complain when people extend that scepticism towards me, too.

A gentleman from Fife has written to tell me that he was not inclined to believe my statement that the BBC have agreed that, when Theresa May appears on the special edition of Question Time that will “replace” the leaders’ debate, the questions to May will be pre-approved by her staff and May will know the questions in advance. He therefore contacted the BBC for confirmation.

He has now received a reply from the BBC, that Question Time is bought by the BBC from an independent private production company, so the BBC are not responsible for the arrangements.

I am happy to report he believes me now.

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Crown Prosecution Service Colludes in Tory Election Fraud 426

In a ludicrous statement, the Crown Prosecution Service argues that Conservative Party agents and candidates did not dishonestly submit false returns – because the Conservative Party told them it was legal.

That really is what the decision says. I quote:

“However, it is clear agents were told by Conservative Party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly. Therefore we have concluded it is not in the public interest to charge anyone referred to us with this offence.”

So the Conservative Party broke electoral law, that is not in question and they have been fined for it by the Electoral Commission. But no individual may be prosecuted because Conservative Party HQ told them to do it? Their defence was that they are collectively all crooks, and this was accepted by the “independent” Crown Prosecution Service?

On top of which, the Crown Prosecution Service also colludes with the Tory Party by repeating the lie the Tories have assiduously spread that the allegations only related to the “Battlebus”. Of course for generations every Party Leader has campaigned from a “Battlebus”, singular, and the public are familiar with it. The Tory meme then goes everyone does that, why is it illegal?

In fact this was about something much bigger. Not one bus, but scores of buses, bussing activists and campaign directors in to marginal seats where they were also in paid for accommodation. The CPS statement refers to no allegations at all except a “Battlebus”, singular. By repeating this Tory lie in presenting the issue, the Crown Prosecution Service prove beyond any doubt that they are directly in collusion with the Tory Party.

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Journalists as State Functionaries 144

There was a brief moment of truth on Sky News this morning, where there was a short discussion of disquiet among journalists that Theresa May will only take questions that have been pre-vetted and selected in advance by the Tory Party. The Sky reporter even gave the detail that the journalists are not allowed to hold the microphone, which is controlled by a Tory Party functionary so it can be switched off if the journalist strays from the script.

This has been the case right from the start, something I highlighted a few days ago.

But the overall treatment on Sky was that this was not really important, and was simply a matter of ensuring “fairness” in distributing questions between journalists.

This is a desperate situation. I do not know any genuine democracy in the world which would accept this. I have just spent two months in Ghana, where there would be a commendable roar of outrage if the President tried to limit what questions can be asked of him – and he would never dream of doing so. Nowhere in the European Union, not even in authoritarian Hungary, are journalists’ questions pre-vetted.

The idea that the head of the government both gets to choose what they have asked, and gets advance warning of every question so they can look sharp with their answer, is totally antithetical to every notion of democratic accountability. If we had anything approaching a genuine free media, there would be absolute outrage. All genuine media organisations would react by boycotting such events and simply refusing to cover them at all.

The media know perfectly well that the reason May needs protection from difficult questions – and even advance notice of soft ones – is that she is hopeless. Her refusal to debate Corbyn and her car crash interview with Marr illustrate that. But our servile media cover up for her by colluding in entirely fake events.

I learn from a BBC source that in the special Question Time the BBC have organised for May in lieu of a debate, questioners will be selected in advance and May will see the questions in time to prepare.

My observation that the Conservative platform is in its essentials identical to the BNP manifesto of 2005 has received widespread social media coverage. I simply cannot conceive that the UK can have become so right wing. Now add to that, it has become so authoritarian there is no reaction to advance vetting of journalists questions – something Vladimir Putin does not do. And very few people seem to care.

I understand that Theresa May has succeeded in going so far to the right she hoovers up all of UKIP votes. In some ways she has gone further to the right than UKIP ever did. For all his faults, Nigel Farage would be quite genuinely horrified at the idea of pre-vetting of which questions from journalists are permitted. The thing I do not understand, is that it appears that there is no lurch too far into right-wing authoritarianism which causes more liberal conservatives to desert.

I suspect many are deluding themselves she has the ability to control the far right forces to which her every word and action pander. They delude themselves. Firstly, May really is that right wing and illiberal. Secondly it has gone beyond control. Douglas Murray of the Henry Jackson Society has a major article in The Sun today in which he forecasts violence (“deeds not words”) by “the people” if immigration specifically from Muslim countries is not curtailed. He does not state what form precisely these deeds not words by the people would take, but it is hard to see anything he can mean except violence against Muslims. People like Murray are now the mainstream Conservatives.

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Vote John Hemming in Birmingham Yardley 427

My general advice for English voters has been to vote for the candidate most likely to beat the Tory. In Birmingham Yardley it is not easy to be certain whether that is the Labour or Lib Dem, but there are a raft of other reasons to vote for John Hemming over Jess Phillips.

Firstly, in an extremely strong field, Jess Phillips has struck me as perhaps the most objectionable person in parliament. She has attempted to build a career out of a combination of extreme egotism, constant claims of victimhood, and being the most reliable source for the media of the most extremely phrased attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, her own party leader. Phillips is the vacuity of modern politics exposed, a politician for the Instagram generation.

I quite understand that Jeremy Corbyn wishes the largest possible Labour vote, to show that radical politics are not as electorally unpopular as the media claims. But I suspect the loss of Jess Phillips’ seat is something to which he could secretly reconcile himself.

I have a lot of time for John Hemming, the LibDem MP defeated by Phillips in 2015. Formerly one of the few genuinely free spirits in parliament, Hemming is a strong supporter of Palestine. In October 2014 he voted in parliament to recognise a Palestinian state. He was one of 17 MPs – together with Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Caroline Lucas – who signed a letter calling for an arms embargo on Israel. He has chaired meetings for Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine on IDF atrocities and Palestinian human rights. Jess Phillips, by contrast, is a militant supporter of Israel.

John Hemming has also appeared alongside Respect at anti-EDL meetings. He is a doughty campaigner against the ultra-wealthy’s use of libel laws and super-injunctions. He has also continued a long campaign to help those suffering from the abuses of secrecy in family courts.

I should make a disclosure here. When I was sacked by Jack Straw over my opposition to torture and extraordinary rendition, John Hemming, whom I scarcely knew, contacted me to see if I needed employment and/or financial support. (I make no bones about it, Hemming is very wealthy from IT businesses). I did not accept his kind offers, but take them as part of the measure of the man.

I do hope anybody reading this in Birmingham Yardley will support John Hemming. That hope embraces all the people of the constituency, though I hope especially that members of the Islamic community will read what I have written, consider its implications, and withdraw any support for Jess Phillips. If anybody has any friends or family in the constituency, ring them up and tell them to support John. Forward them this. Any mobile activists wishing to try to put a good man in parliament, could do much worse than head to Birmingham Yardley to put in a stint.

Birmingham Yardley 2015

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