Sleaze


Quilliam Foundation Threaten Webhosts To Close Down This Blog

Having failed to intimidate me, the Quilliam foundation have now written to my webhost in the Netherlands, threatening to sue them in England (English law claims effective universal jurisdiction on libel). They are demanding that my webhost pays damages to the Directors of the Quilliam Foundation.

You will recall that Alisher Usmanov got this website temporarily closed down by threatening my then webhosts. I hope Quilliam will find my current webhosts made of sterner stuff, but repetition or mirroring of the Quilliam Foundation posts would be helpful at this stage. Here they are:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/public_money_go.html

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/all_blogger_ale.html

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/quilliam_founda.html#comments

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/we_are_instruct.html#comments

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/murray_to_quill.html#comments

Plus this one. of course.

I do not libel. All the money spent by the likes of Alisher Usmanov and Tim Spicer on lawyers’ letters to threaten me, my publishers and my webhosts has never resulted in anybody going to court against me, despite the fact I have always maintained the truth of what I have written and never bowed to threats to remove it. It is all still on here because it is all true.

I have written this to my webhosts:

There are loads of posts on my blog about this, and all my correspondence with them.

Key points:

At the time I pubklished my blog post, they had NOT filed their accounts

They filed their accounts six days AFTER I blogged that they had not filed them

At the time I blogged, their accounts were overdue and they did not have an extension ?” they applied for the extension THE DAY AFTER my blog that they had not filed their accounts ?” six days later they filed accounts

I have not at any stage accused the directors of stealing money. I have said that too much money goes into rewarding the Directors. Perfectly fair comment on a taxpayer funded organization ?” and a comment made by hundreds of others, repeatedly (google the Quilliam Foundation)

This is legal bullying. Having failed to intimidate me, they are trying to intimidate you

My own view is that, unless bloggers are prepared to stand up to this kind of intimidation, the internet is in deep trouble. The bad news is that English law claims the right to prosecute anyone anywhere in the world for posting to the internet as it can be read in England. This is a disgrace, and several US states have passed or are passing laws to protect their citizens from it. It is not impossible they would get your arse into an English court if they really wanted to make themselves infamous.

I am refusing to back down because I am quite confident that they are bluffing, and if they did go to court they would lose. I have in my five years of blogging received about sixty letters like the one you just got, and nobody has ever taken me to court, let alone won. It is called “chilling” ?” people are so terrified of UK libel law they usually back down when they get such a letter.

I cannot pretend it is one hundred per cent risk free to call their bluff. But if we give in the first time a wealthy institution pays a lawyer 500 dollars to write a letter, what is the purpose of our internet activity?

Craig

There is an interesting article in today’s Independent by Johann Hari about former “Islamic extremists.” Hari too notes the extraordinarily wealthy lifestyle of the Quilliam directors.

The most famous former Islamist fanatic in Britain is Maajid Nawaz ?” a high-cheekboned 31-year-old who walks with a self-confident strut. I make an appointment with him through his personal assistant, and he strides into the hotel lobby where we have arranged to meet in an immaculate and expensive suit. He seems to blend perfectly into the multi-ethnic overclass who use expensive hotels like this as their base…

We are served tea by the kind of effusive waitress who works in high-end London hotels. Maajid does not acknowledge her.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/renouncing-islamism-to-the-brink-and-back-again-1821215.html

I get the impression Johann didn’t like Nawaz very much.

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Murray To Quilliam: Put Up Or Shut Up

Another libel lawyer’s letter arrived late this afternoon from Clarke Willmott for the Quilliam Foundation, funded by your taxes (if you are a UK taxpayer). As with their first one and their email, I give it in full so you can see their side of the story:

Download file

They now acknowledge that they only filed their accounts six days after I blogged that they had not filed them – a fact they left out of their first letter. They do say that they had an extension to file late from Companies House. That seems their one good point. The rest is easily refuted. I have replied thus:

Dear Michael Clarke,

I refute your points entirely. My blog posts are part of a wider political debate surrounding the Quilliam Foundation Ltd. The view that Mr Husain has swung from one extremist view to the opposite has been very widely reported and deplored in blogs and on newspapers. Anyone who one year supports Islamic terrorism, and the next year supports the invasion of Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan, cannot be fairly described as stable. Indeed the one thing both viewpoints have in common is a support for killing people for political ends.

The view that the Quilliam Foundation is counterproductive in achieving its aims and thus a waste of taxpayers’ money, and that its Directors are over-remunerated, is also so widely expressed as to be the received wisdom about the organization. Indeed in paying a social parasite like a libel lawyer, it seems only to confirm that Quilliam has more taxpayers’ money than sense.

I am very sorry that you wish to waste more taxpayers’ money in trying to defend Quilliam’s non-existent good name. Of course you will profit personally: why should you not get on the taxpayer funded gravy train too? If you wish to claim this particular action is financed by other donations, I refer you to the concept of fungibility.

I view your proposed action as an appallingly illiberal attempt by a government funded organization to silence an outlet for political dissent in the UK.

I also insist that you tell me whether you had advance knowledge of the plan for Mr Ed Jagger to telephone me falsely pretending to wish to be able to make a donation, apparently in order to attempt to elicit financial information. If you do not refute in simple terms any involvement, I shall report you to your professional body. Please tell me if that is the Law Society or the Bar Council. I expect you have an obligation when asked to give information on where to direct a professional complaint.

If you wish to serve papers on me, you will find me for the next three weeks at C878/3, North Ridge, Accra. After that I shall be at home at 30 Whitehall Gardens, Acton, London, W3 9RD. My wife is now there alone with our young baby, and any action by you or your clients which upsets or harasses her before my return is something which I will take very, very seriously indeed and I would take every possible and imaginative action within the law to ensure that you would greatly regret.

Thank you for recommending me to get a solicitor. Sadly unlike your clients I am not rolling in taxpayers’ cash and I have no money for a solicitor. As Mr Jagger telephoned me to offer a donation, perhaps you might ask him if he could fund a solicitor for me? That would be kind.

I have nothing more to say to you and will enter no further correspondence with you, nor read any further correspondence by you. Please stop this pathetic and futile attempt at bullying and go to court. I have no doubt that Jack Straw (who you will be aware sacked me as British Ambassador precisely for not holding the views your clients are so well paid to propagandise) will make sure you get allocated a judge entirely on your side.

Craig

The only sad thing about this episode for me (other than the waste of time and energy and a certain distress to my family) is that the general opinion of Quilliam is so low, this appalling behaviour can’t make them much worse thought of.

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We are instructed by our clients to prosecute an action against you for libel.

I replied briefly to Quilliam’s lawyer’s letter threatening me with libel action:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/all_blogger_ale.html#comments

Thank you,

I should be most grateful if you could send me a copy of the Quilliam Foundation’s accounts, which you say have in fact been filed.

Craig

That drew this response:

From: Rachael Gregory [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2009 4:39 PM

To: [email protected]

Subject: The Quilliam Foundation

Dear Mr Murray

Thank you for your response to our letter.

We are instructed by our clients to prosecute an action against you for libel. Full particulars are supplied in the letter that you have acknowledged.

Our client is not obliged to engage in correspondence with you about its accounts beyond the statement (made in our opening letter) that accounts have been prepared and have been filed at Companies House, in accordance with the law..

You may direct your request for a copy of the filed accounts to Companies House but in the meanwhile, our client requires a substantive response to the serious matters that are raised in our letter to you of yesterday’s date.

Yours faithfully

Clarke Willmott LLP

Rachael Gregory

Secretary

______________________________________________

Clarke Willmott LLP

1 Georges Square

Bath Street Bristol BS1 6BA

tel: 0845 209 1394

fax: 0845 209 2519

email: [email protected]

www.clarkewillmott.com

______________________________________________

To which I replied thus:

Clarke,

Thank you. Had you noticed that your clients filed their accounts six days AFTER I had posted my article saying that they had not filed their accounts? Just trying to be helpful. I would also point out that Mr Jagger telephoned me and lied to me about why he was telephoning me ?” see the latest article on my website.

Craig

It appears to me that, even for a libel lawyer, Clarke Willmott was acting with questionable ethics by writing to me saying that accounts had been filed, yet not disclosing that they were filed six days AFTER I published that they had not been filed.

On the substantive question of whether the primary effect of Quilliam is the enrichment of its cosseted directors, that certainly is the general tone of this piece from the Times. The Times says the Directors salaries are 85,000 pounds a year.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5549138.ece

85,000 POUNDS A YEAR SALARY. From the FCO. That’s 20,000 pounds more than my salary from the FCO for the much more onerous, responsible and dangerous job of being British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. Remember Quilliam is funded from our pockets as taxpayers.

The Times says:

The foundation refused to discuss individual earnings.

They are going to find that in court we are going to discuss their salaries, pensions, expenses and emoluments in very great detail indeed.

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Legging It With the Cash

The media have bought hook, line and sinker the story that Thomas Legg has been hard on poor MPs, making them pay back gardening or cleaning bills over an arbitrary limit.

In fact, on average those MPs asked to make a repayment are being asked to pay less than 0.25% of their salary plus allowances over the period. And with the media diverted to slight repayments of trivial items, the real big money – fake mortgages and capital gains tax evasion through “flipping” – where MPs rake in tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds, has gone completely undisturbed.

Don’t look over here, look over there! Talk about a dumb media.

Meantime at least the Mail, Independent and Telegraph, and perhaps others, have quoted me on Legg and the Sierra Leone inquiry, because journalists nowadays seldom leave their offices and do their “research” through google. The implication is that in fact Legg has turned into a ferocious prober of iniquity. Why anybody would pay for the facile mainstream media is beyond me.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1219966/EDWARD-HEATHCOAT-AMORY-Legg-flexes-muscles-last.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brown-faces-a-furious-backlash-from-mps-told-to-repay-expenses-1801331.html

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Gordon Brown’s Eyesight and Boyzone

In KLM lounge at Schiphol. Having been given the choice of the Telegraph or Mail on the flight here, I feel compelled to note that the attacks on Gordon Brown over his eyesight are completely out of order. The media of course was quite happy with David Blunkett – blindness is evidently OK as long as it is populist right wing blindness.

One of my strange brushes with popular culture. About four years ago I was with Nadira in the then popular St James’ nightclub, when she started dancing in the incredibly sexy way only she can with a young man a good deal shorter than her, and a very great deal younger and better looking than me. I was a trifle annoyed, but he came and joined us for a drink and he was both friendly and very obviously more likely to be interested in me than Nadira. Nadira explained to me he was Stephen from Boyzone, whcih meant next to nothing to me. We saw him I think just once more, but he was very friendly, polite, unassuming, drank very little and showed no signs of drugs. He bought his round (a quality high up my judgemental list on men).

I have never knowingly listened to anything by Boyzone. I suppose now I ought to.

Off to Ghana now.

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MPs’ Expenses – Whitewash Alert!!!

I have just realised that the man appointed to head the formal investigation of MPs’ expenses is Sir Thomas Legg. That removes any possible doubt that this will be a total whitewash. I suppose it was impossible to expect that a genuinely independent minded figure of authority would be appointed.

I have come across the odious Legg before, and been interviewed by him in a previous inquiry, as detailed in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known.

“Robin Cook had announced an independent inquiry into what lessons could be learned, to be conducted by Sir Thomas Legg and Sir Robin Ibbs. Cook had now lost control, and with No 10 driving, the “Independent” inquiry was a complere stitch-up – the first in a long line of Blair whitewashes that were to include the Butler and Hutton inquiries.” Catholic Orangemen p63.

Sir Thomas Legg, quintessential insider, the Establishment Man’s Establishment Man: as unctuous a piece of slime as ever slithered around the corridors of Whitehall. In his “Independent” Arms to Africa inquiry he exonerated mercenary Tim Spicer and Executive Outcomes against the evidence and after taking direct instruction from No 10 on the kind of whitewash to produce. I have no doubt he has done so again now.

He will find that the vast majority of MPs acted “Within the rules” and that any mistakes by Ministers were “In good faith”. You read it here – now you don’t need to read the report.

Legg’s line in corrupt smoothing over does not come cheap. In this new era of openness and accountability it would be interesting to know how much Legg is being paid.

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Cameron Bullshit – A Viewer’s Guide

I don’t think Cameron is a malicious charlatan like Tony Blair, nor as avaricious – he doesn’t need the money. But there is something of the Blair about him – good looking young politician delivers touchy feely lines of dubious sincerity. One of his concluding lines summed it up for me:

“I see a country where the poorest children go to the best schools.”

Now don’t just admire how fine that sounds, read it again:

“I see a country where the poorest children go to the best schools”.

Do you think David Cameron does see that, really? Do you see that? And if the poorest children go to the best schools, who will go to the worst schools? What does it actually mean in practice? ” I think we should give a few token plebs scholarships to Eton”? “I wish we had someone from a council estate in the Bullingdon Club”? Or that the state schools in deprived inner city areas really will become the very best schools in the country? Does anybody in their right mind consider that to be possible? Or is this just rhetoric designed to neutralise Cameron’s cossetted origins?

There was a rather nastier point of using pretended concern for the poor earlier in Cameron’s speech, when he banged on about the poor single mother who works to better herself, and who because of benefit withdrawal effectively is taxed at 96% on every pound she earns over £150 per week. A crafted standing ovation greeted a ringing declaration that the Conservatives would end the scandal of marginal 96% tax rates for the poorest in our society. But of course the Conservatives would do that, not by lowering the single mother’s tax rate, and not by keeping giving her benefit when she works. They would do it by reducing the benefit she can get if she does not work, thus “incentivising” her to search for a non-existent job supported by non-existent cheap childcare for her children. The Conservatives’ attack on “Welfare Dependency” is motivated by their perpetual nastiness, which Cameron merely disguises a bit better. It is an attack on the poor disguised as social concern.

We are in for a Khaki election, with the parties competing to be the most committed to the ruinous war in Afghanistan. I have to say I do not object to Richard Dannatt joining the Tories. I always argue that we need politicians who have experience outside politics. There have been distinguished military men who have been good in Parliament – like Denis Healey and Paddy Ashdown. But they had the decency to get themselves elected first.

Yes, the true hypocrisy of the Dannatt affair has been missed by pretty well all commentators. The Tories opposed New Labour’s self-serving House of Lords reform, on the apparently principled point that the House of Lords should be reformed to a democratically elected Upper Chamber. Now they announce that Dannatt will be working with the prospective Tory government – from the Lords.

Plainly the Tories have no more interest in democracy than New Labour, and their true intention is just to turn the Lords from Tony’s Cronies to Dave’s Cronies.

Makes you sick, doesn’t it.

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How To Stop Tony Blair?

Where do I find the campaign to stop Blair?

A massive task of mobilisation lies ahead to prevent the elevation of Tony Blair to President of the European Union. The issue has potential to unite the vast majority of the British people. Imagine the Countryside Alliance and Stop The War demonstartions combined. It is essential that people accept a “Big tent” campaign that unites around the single objective of preventing Blair’s appointment by amking clear to Brussels that it is completely unacceptable to the European Union.

I had always been a supporter of EU membership, but even the possibility of Blair’s appointment crystallises for me the arrogance of Brussels and the increasing distance between EU institutions and people. Should the EU become headed by a war criminal, I shall defintely conclude it is time to leave.

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Baroness Blackout

Everybody in London with any connection to the media knows that Baroness Scotland’s ex housekeeper, Loloahi Tapui- Zivancevic, is loudly denying that Baroness Scotland checked her immigration documentation, and canvassing selling this story.

So why are both the BBC and Sky reporting Ms Tapui- Zivancevic’s arrest without mentioning the fact that she is calling the Baroness a liar.

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John Rentoul and Margaret Beckett: Never Seen Together

More evidence that inane Blairite cheerleader John Rentoul and Margaret Beckett are in fact the same person.

rentboy.bmp

Margaret%2BBeckett_1329_18905550_0_0_11518_300.jpg

Rentoul is plugging Beckett as the new Speaker to reform the House of Commons.

http://johnrentoul.independentminds.livejournal.com/89412.html

That’s Margaret Beckett, who for years lived in a government “Grace and Favour” mansion as a minister, while at the same time the taxpayer paid the mortgage on her “Second home”, while she rented out her “Main home” and pocketed tens of thousands of pounds more cash?

These people really do make me sick. Absolutely shameless.

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Ricky Hatton-Brown Proposes Rules Change

After being knocked to the canvas for the third time in two minutes, nose split and gums bleeding, Ricky Hatton-Brown struggled to his feet and said:

“Errr, I god ad good idea. What if we change the rules, so the guy is nicest to the other guy winds, rather than the one who hits him the most?”

He was promptly smashed to the floor again.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/10/voters-could-recall-mps-says-gordon-brown

Brown’s hypocritical conversion to constitutional reform, after twelve years of this government blocking all progress, is beneath contempt.

I sketched out my own views recently. Plainly several of the commenters did not understand what single transferable vote is. It is not the terrible system in place for the EU elections, where you vote for the party and not the person. It is the antithesis of that. You have all the candidates’ names, and you vote for them 1,2,3,4, etc in order of preference. So you can put Tory Joe Bloggs first, Green Trishia Windpower second, and Tory Tufton-Bufton third because they are who you like.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/05/a_new_constitut.html

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/06/we_need_proport.html#comments

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How Our Money Vanished

I have just finished reading an absolutely brilliant exposition of the banking crisis by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books (hat-tip George Monbiot).

Lanchester’s explanation of how the disaster happened is clear and brilliant, though it need concentration and a nice cup of tea. These are his conclusions, with which I generally agree:

It’s for this reason that the thing the governments least want to do ?” take over the banks ?” is something that needs to happen, not just for economic reasons, but for ethical ones too. There needs to be a general acceptance that the current model has failed. The brakes-off, deregulate or die, privatise or stagnate, lunch is for wimps, greed is good, what’s good for the financial sector is good for the economy model; the sack the bottom 10 per cent, bonus-driven, if you can’t measure it, it isn’t real model; the model that spread from the City to government and from there through the whole culture, in which the idea of value has gradually faded to be replaced by the idea of price. Thatcher began, and Labour continued, the switch towards an economy which was reliant on financial services at the expense of other areas of society. What was equally damaging for Britain was the hegemony of economic, or quasi-economic, thinking. The economic metaphor came to be applied to every aspect of modern life, especially the areas where it simply didn’t belong. In fields such as education, equality of opportunity, health, employees’ rights, the social contract and culture, the first conversation to happen should be about values; then you have the conversation about costs. In Britain in the last 20 to 30 years that has all been the wrong way round. There was a reverse takeover, in which City values came to dominate the whole of British life.

It’s becoming traditional at this point to argue that perhaps the financial crisis will be good for us, because it will cause people to rediscover other sources of value. I suspect this is wishful thinking, or thinking about something which is quite a long way away, because it doesn’t consider just how angry people are going to get when they realise the extent of the costs we are going to carry for the next few decades. I think we will end up nationalising at least some of our big banks because the electorate will be too angry to do anything that looks in the smallest degree like letting them get away with it. Banks can’t change their behaviour, so we have to do it for them, and the only way to do it is to take them over. We can’t afford any more TBTF.

I get the strong impression, talking to people, that the penny hasn’t fully dropped. As the ultra-bleak condition of our finances becomes more and more apparent people are going to ask increasingly angry questions about how we got into this predicament. The drop in sterling, for instance, means that prices for all sorts of goods will go up just as oil and gas prices have spiked downwards. Combined with job losses ?” a million people are forecast to lose their jobs this year, taking unemployment back to Thatcherite levels ?” and tax rises, and inflation, and the increasing realisation that the cost of the financial crisis is going to be paid not over a few years but over a generation, we have a perfect formula for a deep and growing anger. Expectations have risen a lot, over the last three decades; that’s going to have a big impact on how furious people feel about the hard years ahead. The level of future public spending cuts implied in Darling’s recent budget ?” which included the laughably optimistic idea that the economy will grow by 1.25 per cent next year ?” is greater than the level of cuts implemented by Thatcher. Remember, that’s the optimistic version. If we’re lucky, it won’t be any worse than Thatcherism.

But it is the forensic examination of RBS before this which is most enlightening. I understood most of the principles, but to have the detail set out so clearly is very useful.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n10/lanc01_.html

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Euro Porn

Here is a photo of something really disgusting at Silvio Berlusconi’s luxury villa.

View image

Italy is agog with the publication by El Pais in Spain of pictures of naked people during romps at Berlusconi’s villa. Personally, I find war criminals (and that is a photo of Blair on holiday in the villa) much more disgusting than naked girls. I think you would have to be pretty nuts not to realise that Berlusconi is living a dream playboy fantasy, but I don’t regard that aspect of Berlusconi as hugely harmful, except for the fact that he has been abusing state resources to subsidise it.

What is appalling is the man’s racism. He says things as Italian Prime Minister that even the BNP do not say in public. I watched him this morning on EuroNews making a European Election campaign speech. He said:

“How do I feel when I see all these non-Italians walking around Milan? When I look around Milan, I think I am in Africa!”

this kind of inflammatory racism is unacceptable from a European Union head of government, and if the EU cannot find some means of sanctioning such behaviour, then it is not an institution which brings the civilising benefits which its proponents claim.

Turnout at the EU elections has been abysmal throughout Europe, with 12% voting in Slovenia. Given that the European Parliament has – and this is a good thing – steadily increased its powers vis a vis the Commission and Council, particularly through co-decision and co-initiation, the lack of interest is alarming.

So too is the xenophobic turn of European politics. Sarkozy today effectively said “No” to Obama’s lobbying for Turkey to join the EU. Berlusconi’s racist rhetoric would not be unusual in many EU states, among parties who are going to win their national EU elections.

Still more alarming, even Berlusconi is not right wing enough for David Cameron’s Tories and they have allied themselves with some truly horrible nationalist parties from Eastern Europe.

I was First Secretary at the British Embassy in Warsaw heading the Embassy’s political and economic sections. I speak Polish. I can tell you definitively that the Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party – the British Conservative’s now main ally in the EU parliament – consists of a large number of anti-semitic and ultra-conservative Catholic crazies of the worst kind. I actually know these people, and they are miles to the right of the BNP.

Kaczynski continually condemns anti-semitism in public. You might ask yourself why he has to do that. One prominent member of his party (and of ther Sejm) once walked out of a lunch with me in Warsaw where a girl from the Adenauer Foundation was also present, because she was Jewish. I have heard casual anti-semitism from components of Law and Justice which you would not believe.

I cannot believe the Tories are not aware of this. Chris Patten, Ken Clarke and others have been ridiculed by Tory toadies like Iain Dale for warning strongly against the Conservatives’ new European Alliance. What does it tell you about Cameron’s Tories that they do not care?

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The Most Undemocratic Government For Over A Century

Led by Lord Mandelson, whose titles now include “First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Council”, there are now seven members of the Cabinet in the House of Lords. Gordon Brown is bringing in his unelected cronies to rule us.

This is an incredible step back in time for British democracy. It is the most Cabinet Ministers from the unelected House of Lords for over a century.

My first thought was that it was the most ministers from the House of Lords since the government of Lord Salisbury was defeated by the Liberals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Gascoyne-Cecil,_3rd_Marquess_of_Salisbury#Lord_Salisbury.27s_First_Government.2C_July_1885.E2.80.93February_1886

But incredibly, I am pretty sure that Gordon Brown’s government is less democratic than Lord Salisbury’s, because several of Salisbury’s ministers, like Lord Randolph Churchill and Lord Hamilton, were sons of peers and actually elected to the house of Commons. I haven’t checked it, but my suspicion is that this is the most undemocratic Cabinet since the Liberal Unionists walked out on Gladstone in the 1870s.

This really does defy belief. This is the Labour Party?

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PMQs A Damp Squib

This is not one of the many blogs that gives a regular critique of PMQs. But this is an exceptional week.

I thought that Cameron’s performance was weak – well below his normal form. Interestingly, the quotes read well enough when Sky flashed them on screen, but his delivery was peculiarly hollow. Cameron today eschewed humour, which he is good at and to which Brown reacts like a bear tormented by bees. Cameron instead seemed himself unusually ponderous and his points were all obvious party ones. Brown’s divided backbenchers therefore rallied around him with instinctive tribal loyalty.

Cameron really should have used one of his questions to recite the government’s manifest failings, particularly on the economy and civil liberties. It would have given some substance to his call for an election.

Clegg was not a great deal better, though he should stick to the line that New Labour is finished and the choice is now between the Tories and Lib Dems. For the first time in a generation it sounds believable, even if greeted by yells of derision from New Labour in parliament. I strongly suspect it will seem still more believable on Monday.

Brown actually performed pretty well. It was the same old line about getting on with the job, and he was plainly uncomfortable over Darling, though he did manage to talk of him as though he were still alive. But he really gave very little impression of being under pressure and managed to put in a confident performance with no signs of ill temper. Cameron and Clegg really let him off the hook here very badly indeed.

But the overall effect of today’s PMQs was to make the theatre of parliament seem completely irrelevant to the real political drama happening at the moment.

Which is the lesson of the last month, and has to be changed if we are to be any kind of meaningful democracy.

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When Ministers Vote With Their Feet

When Ministers vote with their feet, we should be allowed to vote with our ballots.

Gordon Brown is plainly now devoid of all moral authority, and despite the volatility of public opinion and its ever increasing tendency to be caught in waves of emotion, the coming New Labour electoral massacre will only get worse the longer he hangs on.

Hazel Blears’ announcement today is the most stunning act of treachery. The treachery to Gordon Brown is vast. She timed the announcement for just before a Prime Minister’s Questions, where everybody was already anticipating there might be one of those great parliamentary moments when it becomes clear that he no longer has the confidence of the House – and the Commons could thus recover just a tiny bit of its reputation as a democratic forum.

All Cameron has to do today is point to the New Labour benches behind Brown and open with the insouciantly delivered “Are you quite sure it is wise to show your back to those people?” Gordon will return with his leaden pre-written line about working to save the economy for hard-working families, and be lost.

Indeed, it is hard to know at present whether the nation finds the meltdown of Susan Boyle or the meltdown of Gordon Brown more fascinating. Are they perhaps related?

But Hazel Blears’ treachery is far worse than to Gordon Brown. That can be forgiven, as he was about to sack her anyway.

To announce a political resignation from the Cabinet on the very eve of a national election, is an act of betrayal of her own party so extraordinary that I really can’t think of any precedent. Here, I think the hideously ambitious right wing populist Blears may have miscalculated. A lot of New Labour activists, not to mention MEPs and councillors, who lose their seats this week, will not easily forgive her.

Becoming leader of New Labour is hopefully going to become irrelevant to government, but nonetheless that is where Blears sees her future, as witness her campaign for deputy leader. She was the most enthusiastic propagandist in the government for the “war on terror”. I found her lies to parliament on the situation in Uzbekistan especially galling, but plenty of others have reason to dislike her.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/10/hazel_blears_ma.html

Blears continually talked up the BNP, and often seemed to argue that the way to combat them was to steal their rhetorical clothes.

I do not believe for one second that Blears wishes to return to grassroots politics as she claims. But happily, I think for the rest of her life she will get what she pretends to want.

Maybe she should give up on politics and take up property speculation. Now there’s something she’s good at.

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Jacqui Smith Has Thrown In The Towel

Given her husband’s viewing habits, I do hope she washed it first…

UPDATE

No, that joke does not mean that I believe the porn claim was the most important bad thing about Jacqui Smith. It wasn’t even the worst thing about her expenses.

I have been working more or less full time for five years now against the systematic abuse of human rights and rollback of Civil Liberties in the UK. This ultra authoritarianism was by no means initiated by Jacqui Smith, and I fear it will not in the least be changed by her departure, unless by some miracle we get Bob Marshall Andrews or Andrew Mackinlay as Home Secretary (and they are about as likely to be appointed as me).

But this news does bring some light at the end of the tunnel, in that it is plainly a symptom of New Labour’s disintegration, which is proceeding in a remarkable fashion. I think a stong part of the public mood is indeed a dislike of the over-mighty state. I remain optimistic that I will not ultimately bequeath my children a country in which liberty is disappearing, despite this terrible ten years.

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The Independent: A System of Outdoor Relief For The Idle Rich

On the very rare occasions I see a copy of the Independent, I am always vaguely perplexed that it hasn’t gone out of business yet. Any paper that can employ Robert Fisk, but still be mind-numbingly dull, is doing everything wrong. Almost all of its journalists are third rate. Try to name off the top of your head something, not by Robert Fisk, that you first learnt of as sourced to the Independent?

But it is the truly abysmal quality of its columnists which I find positively enraging. They seem to be a collection of people the editor might have met at a social function at a minor public school in Surrey.

Bruce Anderson is the worst kind of saloon bar bore, convinced of his own authority. I am not a violent man. If Tony Blair were to walk into the room now, I would merely harangue him vigorously. But something about Anderson’s immense air of self-satisfaction leads me to wish to know just how spongey it would feel to dri ekistans-notorious-dictator-and-married-into-one-of-the-nations-wealthiest-families-but-her-bitter-divorce-could-derail-americas-war-on-terror-now-she-tells-her-story-for-the-first-time-578321.html”>http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/she-is-the-jetsetting-daughter-of-uzbekistans-notorious-dictator-and-married-into-one-of-the-nations-wealthiest-families-but-her-bitter-divorce-could-derail-americas-war-on-terror-now-she-tells-her-story-for-the-first-time-578321.html

That was just disgusting, and Dejevsky and the editor should have been sacked. What next:

” At home with Eva Braun. Is she just a misunderstood girl who bakes pretzels for the man who loves her?”

But for sheer empty-headed uselessness I give you Sarah Sands. This column is quite possibly the worst bit of writing anybody has ever actually paid for:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/sarah-sands/sarah-sands-when-the-going-gets-tough-the-cheap-get-going-1693505.html

Who would think that worth publishing? Who is she shagging, or related to? What a column:

“Graduate employment is very high this year. The thing my wealthy friends do is to work for nothing for a few years, to worm their way into the company. But that might be hard for the poor. Poor dears, whay do they do? Another of my friends – did I mention he was very wealthy – hadn’t got a job, so he used some of his money to set up a language college and employ poor people as tutors. Clever him!”

“We’ve got pots of money, so my teenage son and his friends can afford villa holidays all by themselves! But villa owners won’t hire out to teenagers! That is a major social problem”.

I don’t blame Sands – she plainly can’t help being an unpleasant drivelling arsehole. But what fuckwit of an Editor thinks that is worth commissioning? Absolutely anybody can immediately find literally thousands of more interesting and apposite articles, for free, on blogs.

Finally I bring you the creepy Dominic Lawson, full time propagandist for the Security Services. This family failure had so many advantages in life, that had he the slightest hint of talent he would have been doing something more high-powered that feeding the MI6 line to a failing newspaper.

A great man of the people, our Dominic. He thinks that what people want to read about today is jolly anecdote concerning Lord Lamont quoting Winnie the Pooh at the Garrick Club:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/dominic-lawson/dominic-lawson-politics-should-be-more-like-a-gentlemens-club-not-less-1694538.html

I appeared on a Radio progamme with Lawson a few years ago. He said that he was reliably informed by government sources that I was not telling the truth and that the UK did not receive intelligence from torture. He also said that I had no evidence that the intelligence from Uzbekistan came from torture, or that the CIA was employing torture.

The British government have finally admitted they use intelligence from torture, as shown in Phillippe Sands’ and my own evidence sessions before parliament. The US government has admitted the CIA was employing torture.

It is also thus proved that Dominic Lawson is just a paid liar for the establishment.

With its clear editorial line against the Iraq War – and I should mention Joan Smith as a decent columnist – the Independent had a chance to make it. But employing a gang of rambling nutters as columnists, apparently in the interests of political balance, has destined it for the bin. I do hope that other editors will learn the lesson from the fate of the Indie, and not employ any of these idiots.

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We Need Proportional Representation

The current convulsion in our politics, and the meltdown in support for New Labour, will throw into sharp focus the risible unfairness of our electoral system. As a mechanism for representing the views of the British people, it plainly fails.

That is true in “Normal” times, where just 42% of the vote can hand a large majority in parliament to a Thatcher or a Blair. On the basis of this “Mandate” of a minority, they rule with breathtaking arrogance and utter disregard for the views of the majority who voted.

It is argued that this provides “Decisive” government. That is a misnomer. It provides domineering government with an inflated self-regard. It provides corrupt, inefficient, over-centralised and irresponsive government. For God’s sake, it provides the kind of crap governments I have suffered my entire life.

As New Labour goes into well-deserved meltdown, the inanities of our electoral system will become more apparent. You can find various swingometer predictive engines all over the web, but none of them copes too well with the effects of a three party system. Trust the back of my envelope instead.

New Labour benefits hugely from the concentration of its support into urban constituencies. A hundred of these rotten boroughs are virtually impervious to challenge. For the Tories to get a parliamentary plurality – more seats than New Labour – they need to get about 3 per cent more votes than New Labour.

But should the Liberal Democrats beat New Labour into third place at the General Election, New Labour will still on most scenarios get many more seats than the Lib Dems. If New Labour and the Lib Dems each polled 23%, at a general election, then New Labour would get approximately 80 more seats than the Lib Dems.

Get this – if the Lib Dems were to get 27% to New Labour’s 21%, astonishingly New Labour would still have around 40 more seats than the Lib Dems. In Parliament New Labour would still be the “Official Opposition”. with all the enormous privileges that postion brings over the third party.

In fact, you need a result which goes something like Conservative 41, Lib Dem 29 and New Labour 18 before the Lib Dems overtake New Labour in parliament and can become the official opposition.

Convinced of the case for reform?

There then comes the thorny question of which system should be adopted. I completely reject the AV+ system recommended by Roy Jenkins’ report, produced when Blair was pretending to be interested in constitutional reform. Any system which lets political parties decide the order of candidates on the “Party list”, and does not allow voters to choose between them, is Stalinist. We have this appalling party list nonsense in Scotland now, and the quality of list MSPs is abysmal.

I strongly favour Single Transferable Vote, as giving the most complete choice to the voter and much the best opportunity for Independents and small parties. Here, you have multi-member constituencies and a list of all the candidates. You rank them in order – 1,2,3,4,5etc, as far as you wish to go. So you can give your first prefence to an Independent, then a couple of Tories, then a Green, if they happen to be the candidates you like.

I support the Vote For A Change campaign, while having strong views on the direction I wish it to go. I rather liked this sentence from their launch statement:

Too many MPs seem more interested in changing their homes than changing the world.

http://www.voteforachange.co.uk/

Do sign up.

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Will Darling’s Eyebrows Finally Turn White?

Political Scotland is a small place. You can’t be a part of it without knowing people from the places in Alistair Darling’s life – Kirkcaldy, Loretto’s, Aberdeen University, Edinburgh City Council.

Exactly like his contemporary Tony Blair, Darling comes from of a wealthy Edinburgh family prominent in Conservative politics in the City. Like Blair, Darling went to one of Edinburgh’s most exclusive private schools.

I take the view that all members of the New Labour cabinet share guilt for the war crimes of aggressive war, torture, apropriation of economic resources, breach of the Geneva Conventions and many others. I detest New Labour with a vengeance for that, and for their assault on civil liberties in the UK. Darling is also much implicated as Brown’s No 2 in the deregulation of the Ponzi banking sector of the economy, which has caused such huge misery now.

But all that said, Darling’s reputation among those who know him, is of a very pleasant, even kind, man. He has other interests in life besides work and politics. He stands out for that in a governrnent full of truly unpleasant, thrusting careerists. Darling has served Gordon Brown with complete loyalty, and never given any hint that Brown was anything to do with the economic disaster that followed Brown’s lengthy Chancellorship.

Brown has several times today refused point blank to confirm that Darling will still have his job next week. If Brown has no intention of moving him, it would do no harm to say so. What purpose would be served by building suspense?

It would wrong to presume that this means Brown will sack Darling. Brown’s habit of intrigue is so ingrained he almost never answers any question openly. Bully Brown may enjoy the feeling of power from making people sweat over the reshuffle, in fear or in expectation.

Nobody believes Darling has had the slightest autonomy from Brown in running the economy. If Brown does indeed stab Darling, in a hopeless effort to save his owm political skin, it will be an act of treachery and monumental ingratitude, particularly as there is less than a year to the election anyway.

But then, nobody in Edinburgh is saying what a nice man Gordon is.

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