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70,000 Tonnes of Hubris 40

There is no defensive purpose to an aircraft carrier. Its entire purpose is to move aircraft to a position where they can attack other countries. As soon as they are equipped with attack aircraft, these carriers will spend most of their time around the Middle East, including at the UK’s brand new naval base in the vicious despotism of Bahrain. Having spent £7 billion on these behemoths, politicians will seek to enhance their prestige and demonstrate that they control a nation which is a “major power”, by using them. The very fact of their existence will make bombing attacks such as those we saw on Syria, Libya and Iraq more likely.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

That further twist in the cycle of violence will lead to more terrorist attacks in the UK. There is no sense in which this aircraft carrier is anything to do with defending the United Kingdom. It is a device to attack foreign countries. The result is it makes us a lot less safe at home.

When they think about it, people understand that, as YouGov demonstrated during the recent election campaign. The politicians will be trying to whip up feelings of jingoism and national pride around this huge hunk of floating hubris, to stop us thinking about that.

There is no money for our schools and hospitals, but unlimited sums for the armaments industry. The United Kingdom is not just a dysfunctional state, it is a rogue state and a danger to the peace of the world.

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Pointless Cruelty is the Tory Policy 178

Today the government publishes to parliament its proposals on the residence rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit. The EU has already , on 12 June, tabled the offer of full continuation of current residence rights to UK citizens in the EU after Brexit. This includes the right for British expats not only to remain in the EU country of current residence, but the right to continue to move residence around the EU.

By contrast May’s offer, which was amplified by David Davis with Marr yesterday, is peculiarly restricted. From a cut off date to be announced, EU citizens resident in the UK will be able to stay here, and after five years residence will qualify for a right of settlement.

What is the purpose of this mealy mouthed formulation, as opposed to matching the EU by immediately giving EU residents living here the right of abode? In effect, for the vast majority, it will mean precisely the same thing.

EU citizens resident here will in effect be able to remain permanently if they wish. But they will lose the entitlement if they move around. So a Polish man living here who, at some point in the next few years, has to return to Poland for a few months to tend to his sick mother, will lose his right abode in the UK. A French academic at a British university who leaves on sabbatical for a year’s teaching at Harvard will lose his right of abode in the UK. A Dutch employee of Shell posted out to Malaysia for a stint will lose his right of abode in the UK. Anybody who takes too extended a holiday abroad will lose their right of abode in the UK.

What on earth is the point of this?

The very large majority of EU citizens resident here will be able to qualify, and the small percentage being disqualified by moving abroad during the qualification period are likely to include the most economically active. The numbers penalised will be too small to have any substantial immigration impact. There is no result but pointless cruelty to a few.

Support for Brexit, and a massive percentage of the Tory vote, is motivated at base by a hatred of immigrants. May panders to these racists by inflicting otherwise pointless nastiness on a statistically insignificant number of foreigners, to disguise the fact that the Tories are accepting the reality; it is an economic necessity for the UK that EU citizens contributing massively to GDP can stay. The Tories cannot stomach the hated language the EU employs of “rights” of citizens. So the government rather adopts the language of immigration regulation, and qualifying criteria, where nobody has any “right” to anything.

Finally the Tories have to face the fact that a formal international agreement on reciprocal rights of abode between the EU and the UK, is not just a matter of domestic British jurisdiction. The international agreement will require an international judicial mechanism to oversee its enforcement. The xenophobic detestation of the – heavily British influenced – European Court of Justice means that the Tories will not accept the obvious body. David Davis conceded yesterday some international arbitration mechanism would be required, and seemed to postulate a new international tribunal including British judges. Exactly like the current ECJ before the UK leaves, in fact.

So that’s the Tories for you. Pointless new international organisations, pointless immigration bureaucracy, and pointless nastiness to foreigners to keep their knuckle-dragging tendency happy.

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Gordon Wilson 32

I am saddened by the death of my old friend and mentor, and predecessor as Rector of Dundee University, Gordon Wilson. It is nigh on 40 years ago that he converted me to the cause of Scottish Independence (though not then to the SNP), much aided by Edith’s magnificent potted Arbroath smokie. To this day I have never enjoyed a food more. The last time I spoke with him he was criticising a passage from Sikunder Burnes as insufficiently precise in its expression. I think every conversation I ever had with him contained a caution of some form or another. He was very – lawyerly.

But those who knew only his public persona did not realise how much fun he was in private. A permanent twinkle in his eye, a dry wit, and the ability to find the exact word about someone to be scathingly funny without being unfair. Some of his best stories related to running the pirate Radio Free Scotland station in the 60’s, moving the equipment from tenement to tenement in Edinburgh as detection drew near, and occasionally getting tip-offs from the odd secret nationalist in the police force. Radio transmission required bulky units in those days, and the techniques developed for strapping transmitters under coats were deployed to good effect when they liberated the stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey. I have written before that if I could have one evening of my life again, it might well be the dinner in Gordon and Edith’s house in Broughty Ferry with all those involved in that escapade.

Gordon took a religious turn in late life and I was saddened to see his comparatively recent stance against gay marriage. Certainly, to me as a student he was one of the most socially liberal of an older generation I had ever met, and he treated members of the gay student community exactly as he treated anyone else, at a time (and place) when that was not something you took for granted.

His commitment to Scottish Independence was absolute, on grounds of national self-determination. He was concerned that a central belt, socialist oriented nationalism would alienate the traditional supporters of the North East, and this actuated the bitter disputes in the party while he was leader. Sadly some of the bitterness of this lingered, and combined with his latter-day socially conservative views, the result was he was not given the personal respect by members of the greatly expanded SNP which he deserved. At a party conference in Perth a couple of years ago I was really saddened to join him for a while as he cut a rather forlorn and unacknowledged figure wandering in the fringes. This was a sorry return for a lifetime completely dedicated to the cause. He stood reference for me when I applied to be a SNP parliamentary candidate, and wryly remarked to me after my rejection that if it were anyone else, he would have fretted that it was his name that had caused the veto from the leadership, but in my case he did not have to worry!

I agreed with Gordon that the 2014 referendum campaign lacked an emotional charge from the leadership to counter the powerful Gordon Brown led unionist media onslaught of the closing week, and we should be less shy of rousing what he called cultural nationalism. I still think that is the case and that it is not incompatible with civic nationalism sometimes to stir the blood about our culture and our history.

I attended Gordon’s installation as Rector of the University of Dundee and I was delighted thirty years later that he attended mine. Edith and he danced at my first wedding. I shall look to pay my respects at his funeral to a great Scotsman, who kept the passion for Independence burning at some of its most difficult moments, and who was an integral part of its first big parliamentary breakthrough.

Here’s to you Gordon.

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Roll of Shame 222

These are the 15 countries which shamefully voted against a UN General Assembly Resolution on Thursday which proposed to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Britain’s continued colonial possession of the Chagos Islands. In the most absolute example of ethnic cleansing in modern history, less than 50 years ago the UK deported by force the entire population of the Chagos Islands to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia, and to this day refuses to allow them to return.

The Dirty 15

USA
UK
Israel
Australia
New Zealand

The above are of course arguably the five countries in the world most profoundly implicated in the usurpation and destruction of native populations

Afghanistan
Albania
Bulgaria
Croatia
Hungary
Japan
Lithuania
Maldives
Montenegro
South Korea

This second small group is dominated by countries with a particularly close security relationship with the United States on which they place particular reliance in relation to a perceived threat.

It must however be heartening that the US and UK could round up so very few supporters for their utterly immoral stance. It is particularly worth noting that none of the major players within the EU backed the UK.

The US and UK are also remarkably silent on the blockade of Qatar by their ally Saudi Arabia. The release of Saudi demands including the closing down of Al Jazeera TV and other media outlets including the excellent Middleeasteye.net show the Saudis’ true motives. Frankly I am shocked by the failure of the mainstream media in the West seriously to question the ludicrous Saudi claim that this attack on Qatar is over support for terrorism.

Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed by his father the King as Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia on 21 June. Bin Salman has been directing the major affairs of the state for the last three years. The ferocity of the prosecution of the war in Yemen is very much his baby. Bin Salman’s master plan, which he has driven through with much skill, is for a far more aggressive Saudi Arabia leading the conservative forces in the Middle East, above all in fierce opposition to Iran and Shia interests. To this end he has forged a conservative alliance incorporating Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the United States.

US and UK involvement in the war in Yemen goes beyond the enthusiastic supply of the bombs and aircraft which have killed thousands of children. Both have had special forces on the ground, and the CIA has yet again been deeply implicated in the detention, extreme torture and murder of opponents.

The Bin Salman plan is dressed up as “pro-Western” and media hacks paint him as a “reformer” because he wishes to expand a network of McDonalds in the Kingdom. But as Iran slowly does reform, and sticks meticulously to the terms of the internationally guaranteed nuclear agreement, Saudi paranoia towards its regional “rival” becomes ever more dangerous. The Iranians deserve respect for the moderation with which they reacted to the Saudi sponsored terror attack on their parliament itself. But such provocations will increase.

Saudi support for ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and the numerous other jihadist groups will only increase as Saudi Arabia seeks to deploy them in its sectarian war against the Shia and their allies. For that reason there is no prospect of terrorist violence in Syria declining. Indeed the United States shooting down of a Syrian jet in “self-defence” was almost certainly an indication that the Syrians were at the time targeting jihadist forces reinforced by US special forces. Israeli bombing and missile sorties against Syrian regime targets in support of jihadist rebels are finally being regularly reported in mainstream media.

I do not hold up Qatar or its ruling aristocracy as a paragon of virtue. But it seeks a more pacific relationship with Iran, and has more developed economic relationships including on shared offshore fields. Qatar has also consistently shown greater interest in the plight of the Palestinians, and more scepticism towards Israel, than Bin Salman is happy with. Qatar also has problems with the brutal military dictatorship of Egypt.

Most worryingly to Saudi Arabia, these slightly more liberal attitudes are closer to the views of the “arab street”, where there is disquiet at Saudi Arabia’s obvious but officially denied relationship with Israel. Qatar also has a media which can reflect these views to a wider Arab audience. Even though, following previous Saudi threats, al Jazeera’s content has been toned down, the Saudis see the station as an intolerable direct threat.

There is public fatigue in the West with regard to the affairs of the Middle East. This is a mistake as the situation is more dangerous than ever. The UK and USA both look likely to support the Saudis and Israel in their determination for conflict with Iran. The EU and Russia – and anybody not harbouring a death wish – will be working to keep the Iranian nuclear deal together. Bin Salman has chosen his time well, with slightly crazed right wing regimes in Washington, London and Tel Aviv willing to back his adventurism. The blockade of Qatar is but a symptom of something much more dangerous.

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COLLECTED WORKS

A volume of speeches, writings and interviews from when I first turned whistleblower is now available on Amazon. Many thanks to Kirsten who conceived and carried through the idea. My contribution was the totally non-controversial title to broaden the appeal! It includes some of the very first articles on this blog, which were only read by about 1,000 people.inBin

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Mental Meltdown at the Mail 132

The terrorist attack on worshippers from Finsbury Park Mosque has led to a welcome, but I fear temporary, distancing from Islamophobia of its most ardent exponents. That is the background to this quite extraordinary leading article in today’s Daily Mail.

But it is difficult to understand what can have motivated the Mail to publish such a blatant lie which can bring nothing but immediate ridicule. Claims of a “different world view” are qualitative, although many will find them risible. The massive percentage of shared content is simple to verify. But the out and out lie is that the Mail Online and the Mail have a different publisher. Both are published by Associated Newspapers Ltd. This is an extract from their last published accounts:

I suspect there is more behind this peculiar meltdown at the Mail than just panic at their association with Katie Hopkins. But it would be a huge advance if the mainstream media as a whole were to re-assess the publicity and access they give to dedicated Islamophobes. Douglas Murray still features regularly, particularly on the BBC, despite statements like this one:

“It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop. In the case of a further genocide such as that in the Balkans, sanctuary would be given on a strictly temporary basis. This should also be enacted retrospectively… Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.”

The horrible killing at Finsbury Park has given us a few weeks’ pause. Next month, the media will be back to following an agenda on issues affecting the Muslim community which is dictated by the right wing shills of the Quilliam Foundation, Henry Jackson Society, Migration Watch and UKIP.

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Wikileaks – Choose Your Side of the Barricade 446

Today Julian reaches precisely five years of incarceration in the Ecuadorean Embassy and I am on the train down to London for events to mark the anniversary. Given that two days ago I couldn’t make it to my balcony, I feel quite chuffed with my powers of recovery.

Yesterday I wrote that Corbyn’s advance has removed the “unelectable policies” excuse from New Labour and they have now to decide whether they are actually socialist or have adopted neo-liberalism out of belief.

Precisely the same faux-left now face precisely the same challenge over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The “sexual allegations” never stood up to five minutes’ serious analysis, but they served their purpose brilliantly for some years. They enabled the “left” of the political establishment completely to evade the question of whether they supported whistleblowers on war crimes and corruption, or whether they supported official secrecy and the spiralling authoritarianism that defends the neo-liberals.

There is now only one active question with regard to Julian Assange. Do you think he should be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges and life imprisonment for publishing the Chelsea Manning Iraq war crime revelations, and for assisting Edward Snowden to escape? Because that is now the only legal jeopardy he faces.

All the faux-left who dodged that question now have to answer it.

Assange is wanted by the Metropolitan Police for what they themselves have called the “minor charge” of missing a bail appointment. It is indeed a minor charge, normally dealt with by a fine, particularly as the extradition request relating to the bail order is no longer in force. Assange’s defence is that he did not skip bail to run away, but to seek an alternative legal remedy – the political asylum process. That this latter has priority is proven by the fact that there are numerous people granted asylum in the UK who face “criminal” charges in their home country. Fear of persecution – often by unjust prosecution – is of course the basis of asylum.

But even ignoring this solid defence, there are many thousand people in the UK today who have missed bail. Julian Assange is the only one of those thousands with a permanent roster of plain clothes detectives keeping watch 24 hours a day. Why, when there are no longer any allegations for him to face? There is no open and honest logic to it.

The answer of course is that Theresa May and Amber Rudd have plans firmly in place for Assange to be arrested and incarcerated, while extradition to the United States is quickly arranged. That is why a man wanted on nothing but a “minor charge” has more police resources devoted to him than any murderer. Again I ask – which side are you on?

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The Tipping Point 215

The UK currently has a Prime Minister who is held in widespread contempt by the ordinary public. It follows that the power of the mainstream media to dictate public opinion has been broken. The broadcast media reached new levels of election campaign bias, and the print media was fanatical, during the election campaign in promoting May. But the Tories nonetheless lost their majority. The press is trying to cover up its loss of power by switching towards the anti-May camp, but it is running hopelessly behind. We have passed a key tipping point where the cloud power of social media is now more important than mainstream media in shaping public opinion.

That has been crucial in smashing the surrounds of the Overton window. There were a set of beliefs which the political and media Establishment believed it was essential to hold, or you would be “unelectable”. These basic beliefs included:

1) An unwavering commitment to nuclear weapons and an enthusiasm about their use
2) Privatisation of public services including natural monopolies
3) State funded services to be provided through intermediary private organisations
3) An untrammelled free market in rents, wages and the other major factors in the life of the poor
4) Low taxes on the wealthy and corporations
5) Ever greater deregulation
6) Neutered trades unions and removal of employee rights
7) Inequality of wealth as a consequence of a healthy economy
8) Unquestioning support for Britain’s retention of Imperial possessions and for military interventions abroad.
9) Politicians must talk tough on immigration to reassure “indigenous communities”
10) Unwavering support for Israel

There are more. Every single one of these were taken as absolutely fundamental to “accepted” political thought. Anybody questioning any of these was regarded as at best an amusing eccentric, at worst a dangerous fanatic. Portrayal of Corbyn was sometimes the former, during the election campaign overwhelmingly the latter.

It cannot be said too loudly or too often that New Labour subscribed absolutely and without question to 100% of the above political orthodoxy. It is what the large majority of Labour MPs have spent their lives believing.

It was the SNP who led the way in showing that attacking this “consensus” did not make you unelectable, and the SNP smashed New Labour in Scotland from the left. Precisely two years ago I wrote a post on why left wing politics do not make you unelectable, which was read by hundreds of thousands.

The terrible tragedy at Grenfell tower has reinforced understanding that benign state regulation is an essential factor in protecting the most vulnerable people in society. It adds to a national mood which was already swinging towards more economic regulation and a bigger role for the state. My last post I hope was nuanced in explaining the situation at Grenfell Tower. Nothing can bring back those who so needlessly lost their lives. But I do hope it may lead to a period of greater social housing provision by councils, working with direct labour forces and sweeping away the intermediary bodies which bedevil provision throughout the public sector.

I am not going to worry too much about the Tories at the moment as they appear to be plummeting to earth with no chance of medium term recovery. But where does Labour stand?

The most important question is whether the Blairites are going to abandon their belief in the neo-liberal consensus and actually support the policies in the Labour Party manifesto. A week ago Peter Mandelson, of all people, gave a television interview in which he said he had no moral problem with Corbyn’s policies, he had merely thought them unelectable. So the question arises: what do these people really believe in?

Some of them really are right wingers and find left wing policies unbearable. I believe that accounts for fifty to sixty of the Parliamentary Labour Party. About the same number are genuine left wingers. But the vast majority of the Blairite remnant are like Blair himself – morally pliable. If getting on board with the Corbyn programme looks good for their money-making prospects, they will do it. They are practising their new left wing vocabulary right now before their mirrors.

Corbyn’s hand is much strengthened, but he still has a major task to strengthen his grip on the party. Compulsory deselection is the obvious way forward but may prove difficult to force through. However pending very extensive constituency boundary changes may give the leverage required. To date, Corbyn has suffered from an inability to influence local constituency labour parties, where young activists are difficult to turn out for procedural meetings and old hacks manipulate arcane procedures. In addition, Labour’s entrenched full time staff is viciously anti-Corbyn, none more so than General Secretary Ian McNicol. The truth is that before the election Corbyn was not winning in the institutional battle within the Labour Party. He needs to exploit his current strength now ruthlessly in internal battles.

In Scotland, a dreadful and unpopular Tory government dependent on the DUP, and a lurch towards a disastrous Brexit which Scotland does not want, should provide a massive boost to the Independence movement. But the SNP is failing as a leadership vehicle for Independence. Having fought a pathetic general election campaign in which it prepared to accept that the very thought of Independence is a dirty little secret that should be hidden under the bed, the SNP appears in almost as great a crisis of confidence as the Tory Party. It needs now to come out and forcefully explain why Scotland would do much better as an independent country. The purpose of the SNP is not remunerative employment for Scotland’s political class. It is, however, beginning to look like it.

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Housing Regulation 408

There are two separate but linked questions arising from the terrible disaster at Ladbroke Grove. One is the efficacy of national building regulations on fire and safety. It is plainly true that, if Grenfell Tower met them, they are inadequate. The second is how Kensington and Chelsea Council in particular manage their housing.

To look at the second question, I do agree with David Lammy that there is potential criminal culpability here, but I am not quite sure that he is right to describe it as “corporate manslaughter”. It seems to me that responsibility rests more with government than with corporations (though I accept that the former is a tool of the latter).

One of the most retrograde developments of my lifetime has been the wholescale “outsourcing” of delivery of public services away from direct government provision. So rather than by council employees, your bins are probably emptied and your streets swept by a private company paid to do it. Just as your utilities are supplied, your trains run, civil servants get their stationery ordered, increasingly medical services are provided, international aid projects are administered, and literally thousands of other examples.

This development was driven by the ideological belief, often fanatically held, that people employed by government are less efficient than those employed by the private sector. That ideology also depended on a rejection of the very notion of altruism; which rejection of altruism was at the heart of Thatcherism. The idea that people are only motivated by personal gain is of course quite untrue. Firefighters, who are still employed by the public, have proved that just now, beyond anything I can say, by going well beyond their contractual duty to try to help. But even accepting for one moment, for the sake of argument, the doctrine that people are only motivated by money; it plainly does not follow that public services would be more efficiently delivered by the private sector. What does follow is that public services will suffer from profiteering if run by the private sector.

But this disastrous contracting out is not always to private for profit companies. It is sometimes to what Tories call the “third sector”, meaning charities and not for profit companies. Much of the aid budget is now spent this way. Not at all coincidental, the pumping of large amounts of public money into this sector has coincided with a quite incredible rise in the salaries and emoluments of senior charities staff.

We have ended up in the situation where executive staff of charities are on over £200,000 a year, where the chief executive of Save the Children gets twice the salary of the Head of DFID, and where people who occupy what were once public sector jobs in rail, water or housing can earn ten times what their public sector predecessors were getting. At the same time wages, employment protection, conditions and unionisation for the actual workers have all been cut.

This is important because the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation Ltd is a not for profit company. No shareholders get any profits from it, and it does not remunerate its directors. This is the body which manages Grenfell Towers and did the refurbishment. Some of the (rightly critical) comment has assumed that KCTMO Ltd is a profiteering private company and this is why it has skimped on possible safety features like sprinkler systems. But it is more complicated than that.

The majority of KCTMO directors, including the chairman, are themselves tenants of the council’s housing. Three more are council appointed. The philosophy behind KCTMO Ltd is on the face of it benign – the tenants are managing their own properties. Which leads to the question of why relationships had broken down so badly between KCTMO and those apparently speaking for the residents of Grenfell Tower, particularly over fire safety issues.

Some of the answer to that may relate to social hierarchy among different types of council tenant. I do not know if anyone on the KCTMO board lived in Grenfell Tower, but imagine we would have been told that if so.

My experience of other organisations would lead me to suspect that in practice KCTMO Ltd did not operate in the way that it does on paper, and that the Chief Executive and other officers had a disproportionate influence. I have seen enough decisions in enough public bodies with a supposedly democratic structure – including universities and councils – to know that the elected representatives often find it very difficult to challenge the “expertise” of the executive officers. This is particularly likely to be true in an area like housing, where there are architectural, construction and legal issues. You quickly end up in a situation where the elected representatives are not really making decisions but only rubber=stamping the decisions of the officers. I saw various tenants who had been involved in the complaints to KTCMO interviewed yesterday, and they all referenced the Chief Executive, Robert Black, and not the tenant representative Chairman.

KCTMO’s staff costs are just over £10 million per year. I can find nothing on wage structure and what the executive officers are paid. I hope that information will become available.

But I can see no reason to believe that Mr Black or anybody else could make any personal gain from not installing a sprinkler system, for example. It appears responsibility for providing funds for this kind of capital expenditure lies with Kensington and Chelsea Council and not with KCTMO. It happens I lived for three years in Shepherds Bush and know this area very well. Ladbroke Grove is 15 minutes walk from some of the most expensive houses in the world. The idea that people in social housing were not high on the priorities of the council rings to me entirely true. In fact there is plenty of evidence that councillors are in cahoots with developers looking to demolish the social housing and build yet more massive luxury developments primarily for sale to the global “elite” of the extremely wealthy.

So much for the local picture. Nationally, it appears beyond argument that the government has failed again and again to update regulations following similar fires both in the UK and elsewhere. Yet again this is ideologically driven. Deregulation is a key principle of neo-liberalism. The government has an intrinsic belief that anything that adds costs or restriction to corporate profit should be resisted, and the idea of adding new regulation is simply anathema to them. That background cannot be ignored. The more you dig into this terrible tragedy, the more lurid a light is thrown on Neo-Liberal Britain.

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A Series of Apologies

UPDATE I am happy to say paperbacks of both Murder in Samarkand and The Catholic Orangemen of Togo are now back available on Amazon again.

I am sorry I have not produced any serious articles for a few days. I have been catching up on a large number of tasks which were put back by the election. This includes a speaking engagement in Madrid I had needed to shift back and from which I returned this evening.

Allied to this, when I look at the Tory/DUP alliance, words fail me.

I have some more apologies to make. Technology has changed the publishing industry and authors have to do an awful lot of self-promotion, and even self-publishing, nowadays to try to make money from their books.

The problem is that if you are a writer and not a publisher things can go wrong with this DIY approach. Hence the following apologies.

Sikunder Burnes
. About half a dozen of the people who ordered signed copies through this website and paid with Paypal have not received their books, in a couple of cases for months. This is entirely due to a mistake by me and I will post them out tomorrow.

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo
. The new paperback edition of this through amazon self-publishing has too small a font size. I am not quite sure how this happened but it is quite hard to read. I am going to try to change it, which is quite complex. If anyone has bought one of the small font ones and is struggling, please contact me via the contact button at the top of the blog, and when a corrected version is available I will replace it for you at my expense.

Murder in Samarkand. The new paperback version of this has been pulled by Amazon who have asked me for evidence that the rights have reverted to me. I do have a letter of reversion from the publisher which I have sent them, but I don’t know how long this will take to clear.

Sorry about this general level of being rubbish!

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Murder in Samarkand Back in Print

I am delighted to say that Murder in Samarkand is once again available in print. The cover design was submitted by a reader in response to my appeal – I have not yet heard if they wish their identity revealed.

The publisher’s blurb is extremely flattering. This is perhaps unsurprising as I wrote it about myself!

Craig Murray’s classic bestselling memoir lifts the lid on extraordinary rendition and the war on terror and reveals the darkness at the heart of the Blair administration. Craig Murray’s tale of his Ambassadorship to Tashkent became an instant bestseller and is now a classic in several genres. Murray gives an unparalleled view of the British Foreign Office and gives a detailed and fascinating account of the life and work of an Ambassador. But he also thoroughly exposes the lies behind the Blair administration’s “War on Terror” and the ruthlessness of its operations. This is vital primary source material for the “extraordinary rendition” policy. But it is still more than that. This is a most detailed travel story and insight into Central Asian society. It is a narration of quite horrifying individual events. And it is the warts and all story of one man’s crisis as everything he has believed in crumbles about him. Murray makes no attempt to hide his own imperfections, which adds to the emotional impact of this quite extraordinary book.

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Locked In

Locked In Trailer 2017 from Nadira Murray on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoy this brief trailer. Nadira’s debut short film, Locked In, will be having its first screenings shortly. It is a drama which examines the plight of asylum seekers placed in immigration detention. The film is based on true stories, including in part Nadira’s own experiences. She also interviewed not only former detainees, but also NGO’s, lawyers and policemen to research the story. It is filmed in a Category 2 prison, which astonishingly some of the detention centres are.

I am proud of the film. Nadira has always supported my work, including on individual cases of asylum seekers. I have given evidence before immigration tribunals in many of these, and one in particular is the major inspiration of this work. My reaction to these cases is more legal and political, whereas Nadira’s is more personal and emotional, which is why the screenplay she has written is so powerful.

The film will be screened during an event in London for Help Refugees on 18 June at 6pm. This is organised by Musicians Against Racism and Apathy and sounds quite fun. Nadira will be among the speakers at the event, which also features Roxanne Tataei and Nithin Sawhney, who contributed their musical talents to Locked In, plus many others.

If you can’t make that, Locked In will also be screened at the Euro Shorts Film Festival on 15 June at 6pm at the Genesis Cinema, 93 Mile End Road, London.

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BBC Desperately Tries to Re-Assert Old Political Spectrum

SECOND UPDATE The BBC has celebrated the lifting of election fair reporting restrictions by giving us a full morning of broadcasting that genuinely is 85% Tory. I find this astonishing. Following the Tory commentariat conversation that opened the show (see below), Andrew Neil has now done long individual interviews with three Tory MPs in a row – the Chair of the 1922 Committee, Anna Soubry and the smarmy Dominic Raab.

ORIGINAL POST

The BBC is institutionally incapable of reacting to the shift in the political spectrum revealed by the last election.

Astonishingly on Marr the papers are being reviewed by Toby Young (far right), George Osborne (right) and Polly Toynbee (Blairite right ). The old politico/commentariat bubble is entirely intact as far as the BBC is concerned. We are going to have Michael Fallon in a minute.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn will be invited on. He is the one person who articulates what half the country believes, and whose existence the BBC cannot entirely ignore. But the straining and stressing as the BBC try to heave the Overton window back into place is palpable.

UPDATE

Wow the BBC is really going for broke now with The Daily Politics and a review of events between “independent” commentators Andrew Neil (Tory) Julia Hartley Brewer (Tory) Tom Newton Dunn (Tory, Political Editor of Murdoch’s Sun) and Steve Richards (Blairite). Followed by an interview with a member of the Tory 1922 Committee. Followed by another Tory MP!

The Guardian/Observer on the other hand might be struggling to come up with some sort of readjustment towards the views of its readership and away from the worst of the truly obnoxious overpaid right-wingers who dominate the paper. They are, in their Sunday guise of the Observer, carrying another barking mad article from Nick Cohen attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Cohen of course to this day maintains the Iraq War was a good thing and is horrified anybody should prosper who does not agree with him. But, given the extraordinary amounts of money they pay him for these witterings, they are peculiarly hiding it. Their star columnist’s new column today appears nowhere at all on their massive website front page. It did fleetingly, but has been well and truly buried.

(I do realise you can’t read that. I just posted it to show I had looked through the entire thing).

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An Inspiring Day Fighting For Palestine

Eight years ago we had a massive demonstration in London of 200,000 people against the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. I was particularly proud of my speech that day.

But I am bound to note that the friends I was speaking with have been rather more successful than me in going on to change history.

I don’t think anybody had watched these videos for seven years, but nice to look back. Rather amusing to note that the Craig Murray one had 2,049 views on YouTube while the Jeremy Corbyn one got 1,325 views! The world has somewhat changed!

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The SNP Must Sell a Radical Vision, not just Managerial Competence

I have a confession to make. I kept my opinion of the SNP’s election campaign from you in order not to hurt the SNP during the campaign. I did however express it deep in James Kelly’s comments pages 12 days ago.

Yes, the SNP won the election in Scotland. 35 out of 59 seats is a clear majority. The Tories only have 13 Scottish seats. That is just 21% so there is no sense in which the Tories “won” Scotland. Do not believe the media lies.

But it remains the case that Theresa May is only able to cling on to No.10 because of the gains the Tories made from the SNP in Scotland. That is shameful and must be squarely faced.

There is a vital truth here. Support for Independence itself remains at almost exactly the same level as it was in 2015 when the SNP swept to 56 seats. Many opinion polls measured support for Independence during the campaign and their range was 42% to 54% for Independence.

So the SNP fall in MPs was not because of a drop in support for Independence. It was rather because the SNP failed the cause of Independence. Specifically they failed even to seek to present a radical and transformative view of what an Independent Scotland might look like.

In 2015 the SNP vote almost exactly equated to the level of support for Independence. Now the SNP vote underperforms Independence support by 10%.

This is not unfortunate. It is an entirely foreseeable consequence of a deliberate and wrong decision by the SNP leadership. They never once, at any time, made the case for Independence during the election campaign. Rather they fell straight into the trap laid by the unionists, of defending their government record in Holyrood.

Scotland’s lack of Independence leads to a constant drain on our resources in a massively London-centric economy. Our money is sucked down there and much of our best talent leaves to work in UK-HQ corporations and ministries based there. That is a different argument to the equally vital one that we are tied in to a neo-liberal austerity programme that prevents us from growing our economy, and to a number of completely inappropriate policies including on immigration.

Bound hand and foot by these constraints, the SNP has struggled at Holyrood – with very great skill – to manage matters as best they can to mitigate the Tory damage in Scotland, within the limited resources they are allowed. But this is utterly different to the situation if Scotland were an independent country and Holyrood a real parliament, and not what it actually is – a glorified regional council.

In this situation, where everything is stacked to ensure its failure, the SNP strategists boneheadedly accepted to fight on the enemy’s chosen ground. What the SNP offered in this election in no way stirred the blood, not even of their own supporters. The SNP did not mention the struggle for national freedom or the kind of country we will build if Independent. It rather attempts to win the support of the Scottish people by offering competent managerialism. “Don’t be scared, we are not nasty nationalists, we are harmless technocrats” is the line.

I hope the hard lesson of this election has been learned. You cannot manage Scotland with competence within the madhouse which is the Tory UK. You are on a hiding to nothing explaining that you can.

Yes it is indeed true that the media unfairly and deliberately, in every interview with Nicola Sturgeon, honed in on devolved matters irrelevant to a Westminster election. That was wrong of the media. But Sturgeon happily wandered around in their labyrinthine trap for long periods, providing lengthy and rational ripostes on educational attainment for 7 year olds. Above all, she emphasised it was not her who wanted to talk about a second referendum, it was that Ruth Davidson.

Sturgeon hotly denied she wanted to talk about Independence at all, saying only the Unionists kept bringing it up. It was a clever debating society point, but by refusing to make the case for Independence – and by appearing to concede it was a difficult area for her – Sturgeon was damaging the Independence cause and ultimately the SNP.

What Nicola Sturgeon should have done is the precise opposite of what she did do.

She should have taken every precious moment of TV time to outline the positive case for Independence, to declare her determination to achieve Independence, and to achieve it within the next Westminster parliament. She should have slammed Trident and slammed the British kowtowing to Saudi Arabia and to Donald Trump, and stated that Scotland should be an independent country with its own foreign and defence policy. She should have slammed austerity and Tory cuts and said that Scotland needs to be an independent country with its own economic policy that will look after its struggling, its disabled and its aged. She should have slammed Brexit and stated it is going to destroy the Scottish economy, and that Scotland needs to be an independent country within the EU.

Sturgeon did refer to all of these policy areas. But her entire dialogue was framed around how they should be tackled within a devolution settlement. Independence was almost entirely avoided as something that might scare the horses.

Much of The SNP campaign echoed the Tories in spin doctored meaninglessness. The pictures of activists holding up placards saying “Stronger for Scotland”, and repetition of the constant mantra about strengthening Nicola Sturgeon’s hand in talks, was just a mirror image of Theresa May. I find it worrying in principle and it was as electorally counterproductive as I knew it would be.

Nicola Sturgeon adopted a deliberate policy of being all things to all men. She ran a campaign designed to say the SNP can attract the votes of unionists and the votes of Brexiteers. She attempted a “mother of the whole country” routine. Putting out the message that anybody can vote SNP because it doesn’t believe in anything much, it is just competent. This was incredibly stupid. It did not work and it did not deserve to.

Anyone can see that there is a worldwide mood of insurgency against the neo-liberal establishment. The fantastic Yes street campaign was absolutely a part of that. Corbyn has grabbed that mood and ran an inspired insurgency campaign. A great many Independence supporters – including some of my family – voted Labour yesterday to support the Corbyn insurgency, after being active members of the Yes insurgency. They still support Independence.

But in an age of insurgency politics, for the SNP to choose to run its entire election campaign on the basis of being a safe managerial political establishment for Scotland, was such a crass decision that it beggars belief. Many radicals went to Labour, while many of those who do like a comfortable political establishment decided they would rather have the real Tory version.

I greatly fear that the SNP will now compound the error by backing away from the second referendum and pushing Independence even further to the back-burner. The SNP needs to do the opposite. It needs to rediscover the Spirit of Independence and reconnect to the Scottish people. And it needs to sack the great raft of highly paid, besuited, professional spin doctors and political advisers I see going in and out of SNP HQ every day (I live next door). They look indistinguishable from their New Labour and Tory cousins and are a class of people the Independence movement really does not need.

One little anecdote. I have a large balcony overlooking Dynamic Earth, in a very prominent position and busy area. I wandered in to SNP HQ to see if they could give me a really big banner or poster to put up. The place was absolutely crammed with besuited spin doctors talking earnestly to each other and very much looking down their noses at me, resenting my intrusion into their space. They had hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of spin doctors, but no poster bigger than a tiny A3. That says it all for me.

I voted for Tommy Sheppard. I did so with pride and I am delighted he is back in. After a period of semi-detachment from the SNP, I am going to be more active inside it to argue for a much more radical and definite attachment to Independence upfront and at all times. And to make sure that the SNP is a quick route to Independence, and not just a quick route to a political class career path. In practice, building any other vehicle than the SNP to carry forward the Yes movement would be almost impossible.

As an institution in itself, the SNP is a very successful institution. There is no denying it. But as a vehicle for actual Independence, it is stationary with the handbrake on, and as a vehicle for radicalism its battery is flat and it has become positively inert. But let’s not abandon it, let’s try a push start.

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The Bleating of the Blairites

A sleepless night and day of drama over, I should congratulate Jeremy Corbyn and his team on a fantastic job done. This really was a watershed election. I suspect that what happened is that the mainstream media realised it is losing influence, and tried to compensate by becoming so shrill and biased it simply lost all respect. This election may be the one where social media finally routed the press barons. They may in turn start to wonder if it is worth sinking millions into a newspaper if it can’t buy an election

New media beat old media, the insurgents routed the establishment, the young insisted the old also consider their opinion, hope beat fear, altruism wrestled with selfishness, and I would personally go so far as to say good stood up to evil. The result against the combined power of state and media was fantastic. We have nonetheless still got Theresa May as PM propped up by climate change denying, misogynist, creationist, homophobe, anti-abortion terrorist-linked knuckle-draggers from the DUP. But cheer up, it won’t last long.

Tomorrow I will publish an article on the SNP. It is on the stocks, but I want to look at it again when my anger dies down. But for now, let me think about the Blairites.

The Blairites hate Labour’s good result, even though it saved their own jobs. They had put so much work into preparing the ground for their next coup attempt against Corbyn. There was a fascinating campaign to demoralise Labour chances undertaken by Blairite MPs and the Blairite Westminster commentariat.

Here for example was Michael Savage, political editor of the Observer.

Here was my response.

His Guardian colleague Polly Toynbee was on the BBC on Thursday morning explaining coming defeat would be Corbyn’s fault, and her colleague Anne Perkins, the Guardian leader writer whose soul is but a shrivelled husk of right wing hate, wrote the most horrible diatribe in the Guardian on Tuesday advising “Corbyn supporters” not to hope.

These Blairite journalists and the Blairite politicians all live in the same bubble where everybody hates Jeremy Corbyn, and nobody will vote for left wing policies.

Labour Uncut, aka Corbyn Hate Central, had a wonderfully delusional piece by the ludicrous Atul Hatwal, who went and visited a lot of Blairites all over the place and published his firm conclusion that everybody hates Jeremy Corbyn.

Just over two weeks ago I posted a projection of huge losses for Labour – over 90 seats – based on dozens of conversations with activists, candidates and officials who cumulatively had sight of tens of thousands of canvass returns.
Since then, I’ve continued those conversations as Labour has apparently surged in the polls.
In every seat, canvassers are encountering lifelong Labour supporters who still identify with the party but not Jeremy Corbyn.  This group tends to have voted for Ed Miliband reluctantly and are now either sitting out this contest or ready to vote Tory for the first time to prevent a Corbyn premiership.
These switchers represent a new generation of shy Tories, located deep inside Labour’s core vote. They are embarrassed at voting Tory, sufficiently so to deny their intent to friends, families and pollsters. Some of the older Labour officials and campaigners have reported familiar doorstep cadences from 1992 – “It’s in the eyes,” one said to me.

But Hatwul is not alone in his drooling imbecility. If anything he is out-drooled by Jason Cowley, the editor who has dragged the New Statesman to the right of the Economist. Both Cowley and Perkins quote Hatwul’s “research” and Cowley on Tuesday expected a “catastrophic” loss of 90 seats. It is a shame that a magazine with a great history has come to be edited by a bigot so blinkered he has lost the faculties of perception. This is funny from Cowley’s anti Corbyn hate fest – written just three days ago:

In recent days, I have been speaking to Labour candidates, including those defending small majorities in marginal seats, as well as to activists. The picture emerging is bleaker than the polls would suggest and the mood is one of foreboding: candidates expect to lose scores of seats on Thursday. There’s a sense, too, that two campaigns have been conducted simultaneously: candidates with majorities under 10,000 are trying to hold back the Tory tide, while Corbyn is, as some perceive it, already contesting the next leadership contest – one in which, at present, he is the sole candidate.

What a stupid arse Cowley is. Do read the whole thing, he is hilariously wrong on all counts. Anybody can make a mistake. But Cowley is making a dishonest mistake. Blinded by Blairite affections, consumed by a passionate rejection of the idea that socialism might be popular, the Labour candidates he has spoken too share his Blairite outlook and they were all engaged in a circle of delusion. A circle which includes Laura Kuenssberg, who at the start of the BBC election night coverage assured us that senior Labour figures she knew had been telling her from the doorstep that the anti-Corbyn reaction would belie the opinion polls.

This was all of course intended to be self-fulfilling prophecy. The Blairites and their media fellow travellers were engaged in a deliberate attempt to reinforce the Corbyn bogeyman narrative to the public in the last few days before the election. They were deliberately trying to make the party they ostensibly supported lose, so they could take back control of it again. The Manchester Evening News claimed “Labour insiders” as the course of its nonsense story that Labour stood to lose seats in Manchester owing to its stance on anti-Semitism.

The BBC were quick today to suggest that Corbyn should use his success to broaden his cabinet and his policy platform, to bring the Blairites back onboard. They meant that if he squeezes himself inside the Overton window he may win power eventually. I remain confident Corbyn will ignore any such blandishments and go on to further develop a radical alternative to neo-liberal policies. The Blairites need to be stamped out, not encouraged.

The parliamentary boundary review will now be a top legislative priority for May as it is reckoned to be a net advantage to the Tories of 18 seats at the next election, which may be soon. That will be an interesting negotiation with the DUP as it will cost them a seat. But the boundary review provides the perfect opportunity for Corbyn to force through compulsory re-submission of candidates to members. Jeremy also needs to concentrate on seizing the institutional control of the party that he lacks to date. His enhanced prestige at the moment needs to be ruthlessly exploited.

I rather hope we will hear a good deal more bleating by the Blairites in the near future, as they are hurtled towards political oblivion.

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Tories Leap Into the Unpopularity Abyss

The official Conservative party spokesman, Laura Kuenssberg, has just announced that Theresa May will remain as Prime Minister, supported by the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. Now the DUP are probably the most unpleasant bunch of individuals in organised politics in the UK. The “No Surrender” arch protestant bigot party founded by Ian Paisley.

It is fascinating that, after an election in which the Tories and their mainstream media acolytes attacked Jeremy Corbyn at every opportunity for his alleged sympathies with the IRA, the Tories have come to an arrangement with a party that was from its inception and still is the political wing of the loyalist terrorism. The mainstream media never even mentioned the existence of Loyalist terrorism during its sustained attack on Jeremy Corbyn.

The loyalist terrorists murdered 1,016 people in the period 1969-2001. They shot someone dead in a supermarket car park in an internecine dispute actually during the election campaign. In all the media attacks on Corbyn about the IRA, there was no acknowledgement that Loyalist terrorism even existed. I think we can be pretty certain that the media are not going to start digging into the terrorist links of the Tories’ allies now. But social media is going to discredit them.

The DUP are corrupt, homophobic, racist and above all religious bigots of the worst kind. The nastiest people in politics. The utterly discredited Theresa May refuses to resign and intends to continue to rule over us with the support of this ugly faction. Popular support for the Tory government is going to plunge to unprecedented levels. This gruesome malformation of a bigots’ alliance between Brexiteers is not going to last long as a government, and the popular retribution will be massive.

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Bigots United

At this moment the most likely outcome is an alliance between the Tory Brexit Bigots and the Protestant Brexit Bigots of the DUP. They might be able to scrape a bare majority between them. The consequence of this is going to be the most crazed sectarians in the UK driving a hard Brexit, that will result in a very real fenced border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The consequences of that could be appalling.

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